by Livia Gershon/Smithsonianmag.com
Depictions of red deer discovered inside a tomb in Scotland are the country’s first known prehistoric animal carvings, dating back some 4,000 to 5,000 years to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. As Tom Gillespie reports for Sky News, local man Hamish Fenton, who has a background in archaeology, chanced upon the carvings while looking inside a burial chamber at Dunchraigaig Cairn in Kilmartin Glen, a site on the western coast of Scotland that features numerous burial sites and monuments.
“I noticed a pattern on the underside of the roof slab which didn’t appear to be natural markings in the rock,” says Fenton in a statement from Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which has confirmed the artworks’ authenticity. “As I shone the light around further, I could see that I was looking at a deer stag upside down, and as I continued looking around, more animals appeared on the rock.”
Per the Guardian’s Severin Carrell, the carvings depict two male red deer with full antlers and several other animals believed to be young deer. Previously, all known prehistoric rock art in Scotland—as well as most examples found in the United Kingdom—consisted of abstract geometric markings. In particular, cup-and-ring marks are common in many sites across the U.K., including at Kilmartin Glen.