25/01/2023 - Permalink

Shropshire archaeological find sparks interest from the US and closer to home

Related topics: Leisure, culture and heritage / Partner organisations

Archaeologists puzzling over the carved stone found at Nesscliffe Hillfort in summer 2022 are delighted by the response to their call for help, which has prompted people from as far away as the US to share their thoughts.

Last week Shropshire Council shared an appeal by Paul Reilly, a visiting fellow in archaeology at the University of Southampton, and Gary Lock, emeritus professor of archaeology at the University of Oxford, to solve the riddle of the stone – now called the Nessglyph.

Nesscliffe find

Nesscliffe find

Since then they have been inundated with suggestions from enthusiasts, and news of their appeal has even spread to newspapers in Miami and featured on Fox TV stations, prompting even more suggestions from people as far away as Ohio, Nevada and Columbia.

Dr Reilly said:-

“Because the Nessglyph was not found in a secure context but in the backfill of a 1950s excavation trench within the guard chamber of the inturned entrance, it is more difficult to identify, and we are inviting people to help us solve the puzzle, or ideally, tell us if they have seen other similar carvings.

“We never expected news of our appeal to reach as far as it has, and we are absolutely delighted that it has sparked so many people’s imaginations. People have suggested that we need to rotate the stone and it could represent a pregnant woman; others have suggested the character is holding a weapon; others, a tool of some description, and even that it may be an archer.

“There have been some suggestions that the stone may have had some purpose for Pagan rituals, or being used as a mould to pour molten metal. The theories have all been very interesting and have given us some different avenues to explore.

“We are hoping to secure more funding to allow us to examine the Nessglyph in more detail and discover more about it and its meaning.”

Nesscliffe find

Nesscliffe find

Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and digital, added:-

“I am blown away that the Nessglyph has ‘gone viral’  and has attracted so much interest from across the Atlantic. This has put Shropshire on the map and I am looking forward to the archaeologists returning again this summer.

“I hope we do get some definitive answers to the Nessglyph puzzle, and I hope the site will give up even more clues to our heritage.”

Nesscliffe Hills and the Cliffe Countryside Heritage Site, managed by Shropshire Council, covers two wooded hills and a heather covered ridge, and gives expansive views over the Shropshire countryside and Welsh hills.

Nesscliffe Camp is a protected Historic England Scheduled Monument of national importance.

In 2019 details of the earth and stone rampart surrounding the site were explored, together with a monumental stone entrance with guard chambers. The entrance was further explored in 2021 together with the opening of new trenches in the hillfort’s interior where houses had been indicated by geophysical survey.

The Nessglyph was discovered in 2022 when the team resumed its exploration.

Dr Reilly added:-

“We will be returning to our excavations in July and plan to hold an open weekend midway through. It would be lovely to meet some of the people who have messaged with their theories and share our findings with those who are share our interests.”

Anyone with information or knowledge to help solve the puzzle should contact Paul Reilly at p.reilly@soton.ac.uk or Gary Lock at gary.lock@arch.ox.ac.uk