Hanging Stones – Rock Art on Ilkley Moor

I went on an expedition to Ilkley Moor yesterday in search of rock art. Ilkley Moor is well known for its rock art, so I’m kind of lucky to live nearby. My map reading skills aren’t great, and the Moor was snowy, icy, and boggy, so I only found the Hanging Stones yesterday. But they were well worth it. They were the first site I looked for, and I found them pretty much straight away and in perfect light conditions for photography – the rocks were wet, and the low winter sun created great contrast (light and shadow) on the surface of the stone:

from 2224Like a lot of the Ilkley rock art, the Hanging Stones came to popular attention in the late Nineteenth Century. J. Romilly Allen noted them in a 1879 journal article, The Prehistoric Rock Sculptures of Ilkley. I haven’t read the article, but I gather from various blogs (and another blog – critical of vandalism) and websites that this rock art site was found in the 1860s when mining work was taking place. The rock, it seems, was literally uncovered when turf was being removed. The turf would have protected the rock from the weather, people, and animals, which perhaps explains why the artwork is in such good condition.

But anyway, I’m not an expert on rock art or the history of the Hanging Stones, so I won’t risk writing a great deal about stuff I don’t know much about. If this blog is of use, it will be because I have (at the time of writing – 2015) a good full-frame digital camera, and I managed to photograph the rock art in pretty much ideal lighting conditions. The future of the Hanging Stones is uncertain, because the stones were recently (2012) vandalised, and local groups and English Heritage might well act to protect the stones in the future, by fencing them in or turfing over them. So good quality photographs of these stones might prove to be an important resource in the future, marking as they do a moment in the life of the rock art.

Here’s a shot from a low angle, facing into the sunlight. The view is perhaps approximately a metre wide. The rock is wet and icy, and those poos are, I think, rabbit droppings.

from 2229

Here’s a close up, facing pretty much straight down. The frame here is perhaps approximately 30-50cm wide.

from 2257

I can’t help but wonder what meaning, if any, these shapes had for whoever made them. My immediate impression was that the top shape is penis like. It wouldn’t be the first or last time someone created a piece of penis graffiti!  Or perhaps the shapes are a map. Modern graffiti is often territorial, where people (often young lads) sign their name or make an image that represent them or their gang. Perhaps these patterns mark out a space in that way. Who knows?!

If you would like to view large versions of these images, go to my flickr site, where you can view desktop sized images. Alternatively, feel free to contact me to request full sized images. Having said that though, I’ve just noticed that you can click on the blog images above to view them in full. Lots of detail in there! 6000 pixels wide!

Here’s another image from an angle somewhere between oblique and down-facing:

DSC_2259I interpret of few of these shapes as penises. I can make out 5 of them, as so:

Painty Image editWhat do you think? It might be possible that I am seeing/interpreting these penis shapes, and yet the shapes are not penises at all.

Any thoughts, questions, or comments welcome.

Hopefully, in the future, to be continued…….


About rjheeks

From 2008 to 2013 I completed a PhD on Discovery Writing. I also love photography. I'm best known for photographing soap bubbles. I also like rock art (ancient art/markings on rocks). I live near Ilkley (Yorkshire, UK) where there are quite a few pieces of rock art.
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