Condition Assessment and Preservation of Open-Air Rock Art Panels During Climate Change

Myra J. Giesen, Anais Ung, Patricia A. Warke, Beate Christgen, Aron D. Mazel, David W. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
384 Downloads (Pure)


Thousands of Neolithic and Bronze Age open-air rock art panels exist across the countryside in northern England. However, desecration, pollution, and other factors are threatening the survival of these iconic stone monuments. Evidence suggest that rates of panel deterioration may be increasing, although it is not clear whether this is due to local factors or wider environmental influences accelerated by environmental change. To examine this question, 18 rock art panels with varied art motifs were studied at two major panel locations at Lordenshaw and Weetwood Moor in Northumberland. A condition assessment
tool was used to first quantify the level of deterioration of each panel (called “staging”). Stage estimates then were compared statistically with 27 geochemical and physical descriptors of local environments, such as soil moisture, salinity, pH, lichen coverage, soil anions and cation levels, and panel orientation, slope, and standing height. In parallel, climate modelling was performed using UKCP09 to assess how projected climatic conditions (to 2099) might affect the environmental descriptors most correlated with elevated stone deterioration. Only two descriptors significantly correlated (P < 0.05) with increased stage: the standing height of the panel and the exchangeable cation content of the local soils, although moisture conditions also were potentially influential at some panels. Climate modelling predicts warming temperatures, more seasonally variable precipitation, and increased wind speeds, which hint stone deterioration could accelerate in the future due to increased physiochemical weathering. We recommend key panels be targeted for immediate management intervention, focusing on reducing wind exposures, improving site drainage, and potentially immobilizing soil salts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Issue number1
Early online date05 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Rock Art
  • Northumberland
  • Weathering processes
  • Climate change


Dive into the research topics of 'Condition Assessment and Preservation of Open-Air Rock Art Panels During Climate Change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this