Cup and ring marks

Cup and ring marks

These photos may suffice to convince you that most cup and ring marks are not decorations created by Stone Age people, but the result of natural erosion of iron ore bearing stones, stones which were chosen by the people for their individuality and often striking patterns.

I find all these stones with cup and ring marks on the beach of Skara Brae.

Some are definitely not as ‘beautiful’ as others, but nice ones can still be found.


Skara Brae, Bay of Skail, natural cup and ring marks in stones from the beach

These stones with cup- and ring-marks (above) I have at home because they are the better examples I found at Skara Brae, Bay of Skaill. We will see that many of the stones pictured below would not pass the Stone Age muster for being to irregular. So they knew very well what to choose, which were the more clearly patterned stones with generally more even sized cups, but even the best ones are still of natural origin.

The stones show different stadia in the development of the cupmarks and some of these stones could end up with ring-marks and are still not ‘finished’. The last two pictures below show stones chosen by Stone Age people.

‘bleeding’ cup-marked stone (isn)

(Below) The left hand picture is a cup-marked stone from Germany, which may have been reworked in some places, but not much, the same may hold for the right hand picture, a remarkable stone from the inside of Structure 10 at the Ness of Brodgar, where it seems that rusting of iron ore is still vaguely in place in the holes just NE of the central big hollow. This may be confirmed next year which would then suggest that some cup-marks have developed or ‘grown’ over the last 5000 years in situ.


For other examples and more explanation see ‘Skara Brae and Science’

2 Responses to “Cup and ring marks”

  1. Kaylee Mayes says:

    I am from kansas and have found a lot of these stones here, I think. I have heard so many different answers on what these were I was finding on these rocks (or stones). So here is yet another explanation. I was wondering if I could send pics of them and you tell me for sure what they exactly are.

    • Jan van Duin says:

      Hi, you can send photos and I can see what I can make of it. Maybe I am sure, but maybe I am not.

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