An Archaeology of Traffod in 12 Objects Part 2: Bronze Age Rock Art from Urmston

The second item in our festive look at the archaeology and history of Trafford in 12 objects is a stone found in a garden off Westmorland Road in Urmston in the spring of 2018. Weighing 4.643Kg, and roughly 230mm long, 165mm wide and 80mm high, this broadly rectangular piece of rock has a worn, shiny lower surface and a rough upper face suggesting a use as the upper grain rubber for a saddle quern. This was exciting in itself for late prehistoric activity and settlement in the immediate area remains scarce.

However, in the rough upper face are two circular indentations, one c. 35mm deep and 60mm wide at the top and one 15mm deep and 25mm wide at the top. Manchester Museum confirmed that the stone was of Shap granite and examination of the two indentations shows that they were pecked and identical to examples of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age cupmarks.

Such decoration is normally found on prehistoric tombs or prehistoric standing stones – both of which Trafford has a notable lack of. Indeed, the Greater Manchester area and the south part of North West England has very few known examples: with the Calderstones in Liverpool, Eddisbury hillfort in Cheshire and from Rossendale north of Bolton being the best known. Such tombs and rock art were made by the first farmers in the region at a time when the landscape was being substantially altered by woodland clearance for agriculture.

This of course opens up all sorts of questions as to how the item came to this part of the Mersey valley in Urmston, whether there is any evidence for early settlement close by, and might there be more such rock art in the city region? The Manchester area might be short on late Neolithic burial tombs but it has plenty of early Bronze Age burial sites. So, could there be such a lost site in Urmston from which this stone came?

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2 thoughts on “An Archaeology of Traffod in 12 Objects Part 2: Bronze Age Rock Art from Urmston

  1. Hi Mike, do you have any tips or advice in trying to identify a stone which has been worked from one which is just a weathered erratic? I found an example recently on the edge of farmland in the Farnworth area, very much a borderline case, similar in size to the one found at Rivington and currently on display at the nearby Anderton Centre; my head and my reason definitely and emphatically says weathering whilst my heart and my unbridled enthusiasm wants to proclaim bronze age art! Many thanks.

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