Ancient Navigation on Ilkley Moor

I often find myself on an extended stroll on Ilkley Moor  (or Rombalds Moor for non-locals looking at the OS Map).  This area has the second largest collection in Europe of ancient engraved stones, the markings dating to the Neolithic and early Bronze ages. In spite of this most of the many visitors to the moors never see any markings more ancient than the carved graffiti adoring the Cow and Calf rocks near the car park. There are around 400 at the last count and they are listed as scheduled ancient monuments so are protected by law. They have all sorts of markings – rings, parallel lines, indendations and even swastikas Some also have been given names such as the Badger stone, Hanging Stone and Swastika Stone (named before the shape was stolen by unsavoury elements of modern history). No-one knows what the markings mean but many agree they are messages or navigation aids.

The Neolithic era in the UK was between 4000 – 2000 BC and so in a time before electronic devices, the inhabitants were setting up their own GPS devices  that didn’t rely on chargers or 4G.

 As an example, near the top of Ilkley Moor is a mini-stone circle called the Twelve Apostles. The stone circle originally had more than twelve stones and none of them are in the original position – however the centre is in about the right place. So if we take a line from this circle to the aforementioned Swastika stone jutting out a couple of miles away and onto the horizon this is the point at which the moon has its highest point (called the major lunar standstill an event every 18.6 years). I might have mixed some of that up and now its written down it doesn’t seem to be anything useful. But to go to the trouble of arranging and carving stones to indicate something that only happens once every 18 years, well that shows they weren’t on facebook every evening. 

I think my point is that this ancient graffiti has more thought to it than the Baz luvs Shaz now adorning some of the rocks. The outdoors certainly should provide us with more opportunities for deeper thinking and contemplation. 

By the way, the picture here is of ancient monument number 1012958 found on the moors – it hasn’t got a name so I’ve named it the Navigation stone – get in touch if you want to find out where it is.

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