Prehistoric carvings of animals have been discovered for the first time in Scotland.
Thought to be up to 5,000 years old, dating to the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, they depict two male red deer with fully grown antlers, while other carvings are suggestive of younger deer, said Historic Environment Scotland (HES).
The pictures were discovered by chance in an ancient burial site at Dunchraigaig Cairn, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll, by Hamish Fenton, who has a background in archaeology.
The images are the earliest known animal carvings in Scotland, and the first clear examples of deer carvings from the Neolithic to Early Bronze Age in the whole of the UK, said HES.
Kilmartin Glen is known for its high concentration of ancient remains from the period, including some of the clearest cup and ring markings.
It is also the first time that animal carvings dating from this period have been discovered in an area with cup and ring markings in the UK, said HES.
Deer would have been a valuable source of bones, meat and hides, with their antlers used to craft a variety of tools.
Dr Tertia Barnett, principal investigator for Scotland’s Rock Art Project at HES, said:
Mr Fenton said:
There are more than 3,000 prehistoric carved rocks in Scotland, the vast majority of which are abstract markings of a central cup mark surrounded by concentric rings.
“While many of these mysterious carvings can still be seen in the open landscape today, we know little about how they were used, or what purpose they served”, said HES.