Detail of Cairnbaan 

Our Research


During Scotland's Rock Art Project, we used the information gathered by our Community Teams to carry out detailed research into Scotland’s rock art. This is the first nationwide project to investigate prehistoric carvings and their contexts across the whole country. Studying the carvings at a range of scales offered exciting opportunities to explore relationships between the rock art and the contexts in which it was created.


Our research focused on detailed investigation of the rock art at a small scale (the motifs, the ways in which they have been carved, and their relationship to the rock surface), a medium scale (the nature of the rocks selected for carving), and a large scale (the relationship between the rock art and its natural and cultural contexts). 


Our methodology involved detailed scrutiny of around 1000 3D models of rock art from across Scotland, combined with a range of spatial and statistical analyses of rock art in relation to a range of landscape attributes, such as soil,, geology,, elevation and other archaeological monuments. We also used computational techniques to investigate visibility and mobility in relation to rock art from different regions of Scotland. You can find out more about our research in our webinar here.
















Distribution of prehistoric rock art in Scotland according to Canmore Data in 2017

Distribution of prehistoric rock art in Scotland according to Canmore data in 2017. 


Rock art and landscape. Ben Lawers (Tayside) (Photograph by Aaron Watson).

Rock art and Landscape. Ben Lawers (Tayside) (Photograph by Aaron Watson). 


Re-use of carved rocks (Old Dowie, source: Canmore)

Re-use of carved rocks (Old Dowie, Source: Canmore)



Scotland's Rock Art Project worked with communities to co-produce rock art data for research. Follow this link for an overview of our work, and rock art research in Scotland. 


Research Framework

Carved stones of all periods are a priceless and vulnerable part of Scotland's heritage. How should we best research, conserve, protect, and engage them? The Carved Stones Research Framework provides informed answers! 


Research Workshops

In November 2019 we ran two research workshops focusing on specific themes relevant to the project’s objectives, methods and outcomes. In this section you can download summaries of the discussions. 

Other Research

Survey and excavation around rock art panels in Britain and Ireland have made some exciting discoveries in recent years. Visit this page to find out how these projects contribute to our knowledge of rock art.