Solstice sol (“sun”) and sistere (“to stand still”).
On a gloomy day I had little expectation of seeing the Solstice sun. I decided to seek out a Prehistoric Rock Art panel near Roxby. The site is located across from a narrow ridge that runs from the moorland to the coast. The ridge was formed by Roxby and Easington Becks running in parallel towards the coast cutting deep ravines into the glacial till. At some points the ridge narrows to the width of the track with sheer drops on both sides.
There are three known Prehistoric burial mounds in this valley. One in the woodland 250m to the west of the carved stone and another pair 1km south where the Birch Hall and Scaling Becks merge to form the Roxby Beck.
I follow the muddy footpath from Ridge lane down through the woods to a small gorge where a wooden bridge crosses the beck. The sound of running water is everywhere. The low solstice sun finally makes an appearance.
At the top of the bank the woods give way to fields. The field is pegged out for pheasant shooting. I spot a wooden structure on the hillside roughly where the stone should be.
The stone sits on swampy ground at the foot a low hill. The landowner has erected a fence around it to prevent damage from livestock.
The stone is beautiful, it contains a number of different motifs, different sized cups, some with rings, linear motifs and a couple of faint rings that seem to ‘zone’ certain areas of the stone. Many of the cups are quite eroded, you have to move around the stone to catch the light falling across revealing the fainter carvings.
Quite a lot of stone has been dumped on the boggy ground. A spring breaks through at the stone and runs down through the field to the Beck.
The Solstice sun breaks through beside a dump of large boulders.
When showing people rock art for the first time, they invariably come up with their own definitive interpretation of the meaning, usually a map/chart related explanation. Show them a second and third panel and they begin to develop doubts.
Over the years I have visited many rock art sites both home and abroad. I’ve concluded that we will probably never really know the true meaning of the carvings because we can never know the mindset of the people who created them. The best explanation that I can come up with is that the carvings may be an abstract representation of an invisible reality for the people who carved them and that the meaning may change depending on the locality. On the North York Moors there seems to be an association with burial monuments and trackways but this is not always the case.
A couple of years ago I attended a workshop at MIMA They invited people to help create a timeline for local art. My suggestion was Prehistoric Rock Art along with prehistoric pottery, sadly neither suggestions were included in the final timeline.