The Cochno Stone, West Dunbartonshire, is one of the most extensive and remarkable prehistoric rock-art panels in Britain. It was buried in 1965 to protect it from vandalism associated with visitors and encroaching urbanisation. A proposal has been developed to uncover the Stone, and 3D scan it, to allow detailed study of the stone, and an exact replica to be created and placed in the landscape near where the original site
A small-scale excavation was undertaken in September 2015 to assess the current condition of the stone, and to inform a potentially larger excavation in the future. A small trench, 4m by 1m, was opened by hand on the northern side of the Cochno Stone location. This revealed that the stone is buried beneath between 0.5m and 0.7m depth of clay-loam, and that the dry stone wall surrounding the stone was partially destroyed during burial. Seven deeply incised cup-marks were recorded, three with rings around them, and the Stone was shown to be in good condition, albeit soft in character. Evidence for vandalism was also found including graffiti and paint splatters; samples were taken of the latter. At the end of the excavation, the trench was backfilled.
Following on from this initial programme of trial excavation, and with the support of the landowners (including West Dunbartonshire Council), HES and members of the local community, the second phase of the project is now about to begin. This will involve the full exposure of the Cochno Stone under tightly controlled watching brief conditions, followed by its digital and photographic recording. The Cochno Stone will then be reinstated in current buried condition, though this does not preclude exposure of some or all of the stone in the future.
This will allow the first ever comprehensive record of the stone to be made: photographic and drawing records would be made of the stone, including natural cracks, veins and inclusions, and the extent of the stone assessed. In turn, this will allow an assessment to be made of the accuracy of earlier sketches of the stone, which are contradictory and do not match up with the results of the initial trial excavation. A clear overview of the whole rock-art panel will allow the project team to look for evidence of phasing in the carvings (for instance, overlapping motifs or differential levels of weathering). Other aspects of the stone will also be recorded, including the modern (evidence of previous archaeological investigation / vandalism / deposition before burying) and the ancient (notably a non-invasive investigation of cracks, fissures and hollows).
The excavations and recording will take place between 5th and 23rd September 2016. Visitors to the site are welcome between 10am and 4pm on weekdays, although if you want to see the complete stone it is recommended you visit between 12th-16th while digital recording is going on. If visiting, please do not enter the excavation area or stand on the Cochno Stone. If coming by car, please park in the car park on Cochno Road and follow the signs (www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/leisure-parks-events/parks-and-greenspaces/woodlands/auchnacraig-woodland-park/). Please be careful when walking to the site as this involves walking along a road with no pavement for around 100m. For further information, contact Dr Kenny Brophy (email@example.com). You can read more about the project to date on Dr Brophy's Urban Prehistorian blog https://theurbanprehistorian.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/the-cochno-stone-exposed/.
Revealing the Cochno Stone is a collaborative project between Factum Arte and the University of Glasgow, with support from West Dunbartonshire Council and Historic Environment Scotland