Wading through the wet bracken, we knew, would be worth it, for on the other side of the green fronds there is a stone…and it is something a bit different, in more ways than one. Several examples of Neolithic rock art, or petroglyphs, have been found on this part of the moor. One we have yet to locate, another, found during the excavation of a cairn, has been moved to the museum in Sheffield, and one… a huge, earthfast boulder… remains where it was found. But all is not what it seems.
The stone, one of the best we have yet to see in the area, was discovered in the 1960s, but it was soon noted that the carvings were rapidly deteriorating. This, sadly, is the case for many of the remaining petroglyphs that have withstood natural weathering for thousands of years, only to be almost obliterated since the Industrial Revolution altered the atmospheric chemistry of the world. One of the best known carvings to have suffered so is the Fylfot at Ilkley, also known as the Swastika Stone, that bears an image similar to the Camunian Rose found carved in Italy. When I was younger it was clearly visible. Now only a faint shadow remains and can only be clearly seen when the weather and light are right, behind its modern counterpart that at least still allows us to see what was once deeply carved in stone.
Something needed to be done in order to protect the stone we had come to see and prevent it from sharing the same fate as the Fylfot. It is a large stone, difficult, though not impossible, to remove to a covered location, but the trouble with moving such stones is that their context is forever lost. We do not know for certain what they mean. What we do know is that many, if not all, of the significant stones that our ancestors left only make sense when seen in relationship to their surroundings. There are known alignments to landscape features, planetary bodies and to other ancestral stones… removing them from their place in the landscape robs us of any chance at all of learning to understand them.
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