A rock art panel bearing two motifs of Neolithic/early Bronze Age date and an early medieval Runic inscription.
Reasons for Designation
The prehistoric rock art and early medieval Runic inscription in Lemmington Wood is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: despite susceptibility to natural weathering, the rock art motifs are reasonably well-defined and the Runic inscription is readily legible;
* Documentation: early medieval society is poorly documented and no such evidence is available for prehistoric societies, hence the value of the archaeological remains of these periods to inform our understanding of their belief systems is particularly important;
* Diversity: this panel displays a complex arrangement of two linked motifs, enhanced by the survival of a later runic inscription;
* Potential: the panel will inform our knowledge of prehistoric and early medieval society through individual study of the motifs and runes and through an increased understanding of the circumstances in which they were created and used.
The term prehistoric rock art is most commonly applied to a specific style of carvings created in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age (approximately 3800 BC to 1500 BC). This type of carving shares a limited set of motifs, with numerous variations around the main themes, and is found throughout northern Europe in a wide range of contexts, from isolated natural outcrops to burial cairns and standing stones. The most common form of motifs are the simple ‘cup mark’ (a shallow bowl-shaped depression a few centimetres across) and the ‘cup and ring’ (a cup mark surrounded by one or more concentric circular grooves); many carvings also incorporate or are framed within linear grooves. Other shapes and patterns such as keyholes and rosettes also occur, but are less frequent. Motifs may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown and a wide range of interpretations have been suggested, but they appear to be abstract and held some unknown, possibly sacred meaning for those who created and observed them. Over 5000 separate rock art sites are known in Britain of which more than half are in England and while some examples do occur further south, they are mainly confined to the upland areas of the north.
Runes were a form of writing that developed among European people speaking Germanic languages at some time before AD 200. They developed as a simple way of carving letters into wood, bone or stone using a blade or similar implement. The earliest known Runic inscriptions date from the first century AD, but the vast majority date from the eleventh century. They are found throughout Europe from the Balkans to Germany and Scandinavia. There are some inscriptions known from the British Isles including the large twelfth century collection from the Neolithic chambered cairn at Maeshowe (Orkney) but they are considered very rare in England. Runes were not used for everyday purposes but are considered to have been used in particularly significant inscriptions, for example on a tomb or commemorative stone. Sometimes they were used to put the name of the owner or the maker on a valuable object. Runes were also often used in ritual or magic, and sometimes a single rune came to have a magical meaning.
The prehistoric rock art in Lemmington Wood was discovered in the first half of the C20, and in 1991 the Runic inscription was formally identified for the first time. The panel was re-surveyed by Northumberland and Durham Rock Art Project (NADRAP).
Description: the panel (ERA 579) is located on one of the highest parts of the fell sandstone group arc and commands extensive views; the panel measures 1.8m by 1m and is oriented east to west. On the flat part of the outcrop are two carved motifs; the first comprises a cup with a ring which is joined to a second cup which is surrounded by a complete ring and a second eroded ring or pennanular. About 30cm to the south on a sloping face of the same outcrop are three carved linear features which have been interpreted as an extremely rare example of runes in England. Experts in Runic inscriptions have interpreted the text as either ‘to leave or leave behind’, from the Old English verb laefen, or ‘a remnant or relic,’ from laf. An alternative is that they are Old Norse, from the noun lof, meaning ‘praise or permission,’ or laf, meaning ‘bread or sustenance.’
Extent of Scheduling: defined as a circle with a diameter of 5m in order to include a sample of the archaeologically sensitive surrounding ground.