Amateur Archaeologist Discovers UK’s First Bronze Age Deer Carvings

by : Hannah Smith on : 01 Jun 2021 08:28
Amateur Archaeologist Discovers UK's First Bronze Age Deer CarvingsHistoric Environment Scotland/PA Images

Historic deer carvings dating back to the Early Bronze Age were discovered by accident by an amateur Scottish archaeologist, it’s been revealed.

Hamish Fenton was exploring Dunchraigaig Cairn in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, when he spotted the ancient carvings.


Further analysis confirmed that the animal carvings were one-of-a-kind. Thought to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, they’re not only the earliest examples ever found in Scotland, but the first clear deer carvings dating back to the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in the UK.

Deer carvings discovered in Kilmartin Glen (Historic Environment Scotland)Historic Environment Scotland

Fenton, who holds an Archaeology degree but works in a different field, told The Telegraph:

I was passing Dunchraigaig Cairn at dusk when I noticed the burial chamber in the side of the cairn and decided to slide inside with my torch. As I shone the torch around, I noticed a pattern on the underside of the roof slab which didn’t appear to be natural markings in the rock.

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. This was a completely amazing and unexpected find.


The carvings depict two fully-grown male red deer, as well as a group of smaller four-legged animals believed to be younger deer.

Their authenticity was confirmed by Scotland’s Rock Art Project, hosted by Historic Environment Scotland. The organisation’s principal investigator, Dr Tertia Barnett, described them as an ‘extremely rare discovery’.

Burial cist at Dunchraigaig Cairn (Historic Environment Scotland/YouTube)Historic Environment Scotland/YouTube

She added, ‘It was previously thought that prehistoric animal carvings of this date didn’t exist in Scotland, although they are known in parts of Europe, so it is very exciting that they have now been discovered here for the first time in the historic Kilmartin Glen.’


Kilmartin Glen was already well known as the site of several previous finds dating back to the Bronze and Neolithic Ages. The site has been the subject of excavations and explorations since 1864, when Victorian archaeologist William Greenwell discovered the remains of 10 individuals, as well as several ancient artefacts, in a burial cist – or chamber – in the Glen’s Glebe Cairn.

The recent discovery was made in a burial cist located in Dunchraigaig Cairn. The area is currently closed to the public while experts work to assess the drawing and put measures in place to protect them from local visitors and tourists.

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Topics: News, Archaeology, Now, Scotland


The Telegraph
  1. The Telegraph

    Prehistoric deer carvings discovered in Scottish Neolithic tomb in UK first