Fieldwork to find and record rock art can be both fun and challenging! The more fieldwork you do, the more you will learn about the rock art and the landscape, so it is worth persevering! This section takes you through each step of our recording methods, from preparation to completion. You can also find all the guidance notes for your fieldwork in our Resources section.
Before you head out to record for rock art, there are a few things you need to think about so that you are well prepared. Our check list below can help you get ready.
Decide where you want to look for rock art. You can do this by searching our rock art map or database, and selecting an area to survey. It can also be very rewarding to find out more about other monuments and features in the area that you are going to look at. This will help you build an understanding of the landscape’s history, and offer clues about how the area has been used before, during, and after the creation of the rock art.
A good place to start looking for other monuments is Canmore (the National Record of the Historic Environment of Scotland) or Pastmap (this includes information from both Canmore and the Historic Environment Records). The 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey maps provide excellent detail of ancient and modern landscape features, and it is also worth looking at the First Edition Ordnance survey maps to see what the landscape was like in the 19th century. If you are interested in looking at other historical maps, documents, or aerial photographs, you can find useful information about how to do this on the Scotland’s Rural Past website in the Doing Research section
Make sure you (or your team) take the right equipment to find and record rock art. For an initial visit to locate the rock art, you will need a map, notebook, pen/pencil, camera, and mobile phone or GPS. Once you find the rock art, it is well worth marking its location so that you can quickly find the panels again on your next visit. We recommend bamboo canes with some tape or material attached – these are light and easy to carry.
When you are making a full record of the rock art, you will need some additional equipment, detailed in our equipment check-list. If you are part of a Community Team, you should have access to a field recording kit. If not, or if any pieces of equipment are missing, please let us know so that we can replace them.
Before heading out into the field, make sure that any technical equipment is working properly, and that you have fully charged batteries. It is also well worth carrying spare batteries for your camera and GPS or smartphone, and a spare memory card for your camera.
Good light makes it easier to identify traces of past activity, whether faint rock carvings or other features in the landscape, such as ancient earthworks, which may be important in the choice of location for the rock art. Clear winter days, when the vegetation is less dense and the sun angle is low, are ideal. Dry, still conditions also make survey and recording much easier and more enjoyable!
We strongly recommend that you make an initial visit to locate the rock art and explore the surrounding area before you start recording. It can take some time to find the panels, and you may need to make more than one visit. If you are not able to find the panels on your first visit, try going again in different light conditions, or at a different time of year when the rock art may be more visible.
Once you find the rock art, mark their location with something visible, such as bamboo canes with flags on, so that you can easily find them again. Take some photos, a GPS reference, and some notes to help you identify the right panels.
Have a good explore of the surrounding area. This will help you understand the landscape setting of the rock art, and locate other monuments and features that might be linked to the rock art in some way. You may even find some unrecorded rock art!
Your preliminary visit will also allow you to assess whether any panels need cleaning before you record them so that you can come prepared to do this on your next visit.
You can make a quick record of rock art in the field with a notebook, GPS reference, and some photographs to help you or others identify the panel again. To make a detailed record, you might find it helpful to download and use our paper recording form.
It may be a good idea to re-read our guidance notes on using the rock art recording form before setting out, and perhaps taking them with you, particularly if you are still new to the recording methods.
Finally, and most important of all, ensure that you work safely. It is always best to go with at least one other person, and to do a risk assessment before you go using our Risk Assessment form. Mobile phones don’t always work in some parts of Scotland, so make sure that someone knows where you’ll be, in case of emergency. Take a map, appropriate clothing, emergency foil blanket, enough food and drink, a First Aid pouch, whistle, and small torch (also useful for replicating low-angle sunlight to highlight rock-art motifs!). Make sure you let people know when you are back safely.
Remember to follow the Rock Art Code!
A good way to start recording rock art is by visiting carved rocks that are already known, and exploring the surrounding area. Usually, the panels are not isolated and you have a good chance of finding other carvings by looking at other rocks in the vicinity of the carved panels.
You can search for existing rock art using our map and database search tool. Each existing rock art record in our database has a grid reference, which you can use to find the panel in the field. There is more information about how to do this on our Finding rock art page.
Should you find a rock art site, our guidance notes will provide all the information you need to proceed with its recording.
After you have finished your recording, you can share your data by uploading it to Canmore (for existing rock art records) or to Discovery and Excavation Scotland (for new rock art records). There is guidance on how to do this in our Recording Rock Art and Sharing Data guidance.
The Scotland's Rock Art Project trained and worked with Community Teams to build a consistent, publicly accessible database of prehistoric carvings using specific recording methods.
Creating detailed, digital records of Scotland's rock art is essential for better understanding, sustainability, and public awareness. You can find out about our recording methods in this section!
Finding rock art is very rewarding, but often quite difficult! In this section we offer a few tips that may help you find those 'hidden' panels.
Before going out and looking for rock art, there are some important things that you should be aware of. You will also need to know what equipment to use. You can find out all about it here!
Like any other type of archaeological fieldwork, rock art recording uses specific methods and techniques. Learn how to record rock art, and find out what types of information you should be documenting.
Fieldwork is only one part of the method for recording rock art. In this section you can read about how to process information captured in the field, and how to build 3D models of the carved rocks.
Once you have processed all the information collected in the field, your photographs, and your 3D models, you can upload it to Canmore. Find out how in this section.