Prehistoric cairnfield, field system and cup and ring marked rock, 850m south east of Howdale Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019683

Date first listed: 15-Nov-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Apr-2001


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric cairnfield, field system and cup and ring marked rock, 850m south east of Howdale Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Scarborough (District Authority)

Parish: LCPs of Fylingdales and Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre


National Grid Reference: NZ 95743 01144


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Cairnfields are concentrations of cairns sited in close proximity to one another. They often consist largely of clearance cairns, built with stone cleared from the surrounding landsurface to improve its use for agriculture, and on occasion their distribution pattern can be seen to define field plots. However, funerary cairns are also frequently incorporated, although without excavation it may be impossible to determine which cairns contain burials. Clearance cairns were constructed from the Neolithic period (from c.3400 BC), although the majority of examples appear to be the result of field clearance which began during the earlier Bronze Age and continued into the later Bronze Age (2000-700 BC). The considerable longevity and variation in the size, content and associations of cairnfields provide important information on the development of land use and agricultural practices. Cairnfields also retain information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation during the prehistoric period.

In addition to clearance cairns prehistoric fields were also defined by earthen banks. These can vary in size and in some cases can be several kilometres long, dividing the land into large elaborate complexes of fields. Their longevity and their relationship with other monument types provide important information on the diversity of social organisation, land division and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland, Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the `cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more `rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the `rings' may also exist, providing the design with a `tail'. Pecked lines or grooves can also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. Other shapes and patterns also occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (c.2800-500 BC) and provide one of our most important insights into prehistoric `art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock-art have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be identified as nationally important. The prehistoric cairnfield, field system and cup and ring marked rock, 850m south east of Howdale Farm survive well. Significant information about the original form of the cairns and any burials placed within them will be preserved. The cup and ring marked rock also survives well. Such monuments are rare in the North York Moors however this example is part of a concentration of similar carved rocks on Howdale Moor. It is unusual to find carved rocks as an element of a cairnfield. The monument offers important scope for understanding the changing patterns of ritual and social activities in the area during the prehistoric period


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a cairnfield and associated field system and a cup and ring marked rock. It is located on a north facing slope on the south eastern flank of Howdale Moor. This is the easternmost extent of the sandstone, heather covered moor characteristic of the North York Moors. Today the moor is little used but archaeological evidence indicates that this has not always been the case. The prehistoric period in particular saw extensive agricultural use of the area. It was also then being used for burials and activities associated with the carving of patterns on exposed rock. Remains of these activities survive today. The monument extends over an area approximately 250m north west-south east by 130m north east-south west.The cairnfield includes up to six clearance cairns. These are composed of stony mounds measuring up to 5m in diameter and up to 0.5m in height. These are the result of stone clearance in the Bronze Age to improve the land for farming. Evidence from other similar monuments in the north of England shows that such cairns may also have been used for burials or cremations. The field system associated with the clearance cairns is indicated by a sinuous linear earthwork interpreted as the remains of a field boundary. This comprises a low earth and stone bank 3m wide and up to 0.4m high. It extends for 50m northwards down the slope. Approximately halfway along its length there is a further bank extending west for 40m. This measures 2m wide and 0.25m high. There is a clearance cairn built into this second bank demonstrating that the cairns and field boundary were part of an integrated system of land clearance and exploitation. The settlement from which this area of land was farmed has yet to be identified, but it is anticipated to have been nearby. The cup and ring marked rock is located approximately 30m west of the field system. It is an earthfast flat rock measuring 1m by 1m. The carvings include 12 cup marks, several eroded cups and a carved groove. It is unusual to find such carved rocks associated with cairnfields and agricultural land use. Their relationship is not fully understood, but it is thought that the carved rocks represent an earlier pattern of land use on the moor when agricultural use was not as extensive.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 34381

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Spratt, D A, Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1994), 109-122
Spratt, D A , 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, (1993), 109-122
Chappell, Cup and ring carvings-survey record sheets, (1997)

End of official listing