Cochno Road druid stone at the center of the battery storage battle
Part of the magic of these stones is their mystery. It is an enigma that fascinates locals, visitors and archaeologists alike.
Among those who know these neolithic sites best are the residents of nearby Faifley, who grew up ‘playing with Druid stones’. The village of Clydebank, parts of which are in Scotland’s 10% most deprived areas, has an ancient wonderland nearby.
But the person who has probably studied them the most is Dr Kenny Brophy who over the last eight years has examined between 12 and 15 rocks and outcrops, the best known being the Cochno Stone. During that time, he said, “spent a lot of time looking at them and thinking about them.”
What do we know about these stones and why did people carve them?
“It’s very difficult,” said Dr Brophy, “to say much about them with much certainty. Cup and ring stones are very difficult sites because they are almost impossible to date. You can’t get radiocarbon dating. from a stone. But the belief is that they probably belong to the late neolithic period and may have been carved between 3000 and 2000 BC. They are part of a wide tradition found throughout North Western Europe and in greater concentration in some different parts of Scotland.
Between 2500 and 3000 such sites are known across Scotland, and the stone symbols are very consistent. “They are,” he said, “cups with round holes, little ones, and then some of them are surrounded by rings, concentric rings carved around them, so we call them stone stones and ring mark.”
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What do the marks mean?
That, says Dr Brophy, is the “million-dollar question”.
“We don’t know. It is impossible to know what the specific meaning is: whether they are part of a language and mean something specific or abstract symbols; related to the attempt to map the landscape or the night sky; or territorial markers in some way. It is impossible to say because we are dealing with a society that leaves no written records. ”
Symbols, he says, are part of a worldview that we no longer understand. “They,” he said, “are very organic. They remind me of the ripples that come out when you drop a stone in a pond. The surface of the stone has a very fine set of marks. in the cup and ring almost like water. There is something about boundaries, thinking about the underworld and the real world – material boundaries of liquid rocks.”
How do they do it?
Neolithic people probably carved stones over long periods of time, and it is believed that some stones were re-carved over several centuries. Dr Brophy said: “Whoever does it is very good at it because they are extremely difficult to do. To make the circles concentric. .”
Are they related to druids?
No, said Dr Brophy. “Druids are a modern invention. Some people I spoke to recently said when they were young they remembered people there dressed as druids performing ceremonies. I don’t know if it’s true whether it is or not. But it is a common association with ancient monuments to call a stone circle a ‘druid circle’.”
Where are the stones?
The stones, Dr Brophy observed, were often in prominent places in the landscape. The surroundings of Faifley are well laid out, often with wonderful views down the Clyde valley. He said, “They were usually in the kind of landscaped areas where early farmers would spend the summer with their animals. They probably lived on the banks of the Clyde and brought their animals to breed in the mountains in the summer.
How important are the stones of Cochno?
The main stone of Cochno is one of the largest sites in Scotland, a large sandy outcrop, fifteen meters wide, covered with prehistoric symbols and densely carved. It is, says Dr Brophy, “perhaps one of the most important examples in Britain”.
“This is why, he added, “it is important to the local community because it has a very rich history of engagement with local people.”
“They’ve got all these stories about people playing this when they were kids – marbles games where they get marbles to put in cups. There is this kind of rich modern biography that means the Cochno stone is very important to the people who live in Faifley.
What do the stones mean for the locals?
Lucy Jordan, who lives near the site, remembers running and playing “freely” around the sites during her childhood and that it was called ‘playing with the Druid Stones’. “I remember sitting under a tree overhanging one of the rocks/stones, dropping my little marble into the ring and watching it roll around.”
Margaret Hamilton, a key voice in the campaign against the battery storage site, also has strong memories. He said: “I spent all my life growing up in this place building dens playing wings as a child with others in our area. its own magical place where our imaginations run wild. You can walk into in Narnia!”
How connected is the rock community?
When Dr Brophy did the fieldwork, local people helped with the excavations and the recording of the sites. Although Faifley doesn’t always appear deprived to outsiders, he points out, it has a “rich prehistoric heritage that local people know about and are proud of”.
Such is the connection that a new primary school campus in the village is set to have a rock art design integrated into it.
“Rock art,” says Dr Brophy, “is really within the identity of many people living in the community. It is unusual in Scotland to have people in an urban area so closely associated with their prehistoric inheritance.
How seriously are the rocks threatened from this development?
Locals are concerned and angry, but Dr Brophy has assured that there will be substantial “legal protection for all archaeological sites within the planning process”.
“We have very good site planning methods in Scotland where archeology is concerned,” he said. “So nothing happens without archaeologists being consulted in the process.”
Apatura, the company developing the battery storage site, told the Herald: “The scheme will not affect any known historic or archaeological features. A Historic Environment Assessment has been carried out by an independent third- party specialized and submitted in support of the application.This assessment will be considered by the Energy Consents Unit and Local Planning Authority as a material planning consideration in determining the application.