Making a Mark: Process, Pattern and Change in the British
and Irish Neolithic
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz-Guardamino
This paper presents key results of the Making a Mark project (2014–2016), which aimed
to provide a contextual framework for the analysis of mark making on portable artefacts in
the British and Irish Neolithic by comparing them with other mark-making practices,
including rock art and passage tomb art. The project used digital imaging techniques,
including Reﬂectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), and improved radiocarbon
chronologies, to develop a new understanding of the character of mark making in the
British and Irish Neolithic. Rather than considering this tradition in representational
terms, as expression of human ideas, we focus on two kinds of relational material
practices, the processes of marking and the production of skeuomorphs, and their
emergent properties. We draw on Karen Barad’s concept of ‘intra-action’and Gilles
Deleuze’s notion of differentiation to understand the evolution and development of
mark-making traditions and how they relate to other kinds of social practices over the
course of the Neolithic.
The mark-making traditions of Neolithic Britain and
Ireland (c. 4050–2300 cal. BC) are spectacular and
enigmatic. Despite this, they are often overlooked in
traditional accounts of the Neolithic. This is espe-
cially the case for portable art, which is also largely
unknown within the broader European scholarly
context. The mark-making traditions of Neolithic
Britain and Ireland consist of very few examples of
representational images. Instead, marks of an abstract
linear, curvilinear and geometric character predomin-
ate in a number of contexts: as open-air rock art;
in passage tombs in Ireland, north Wales and
Orkney; in the settlement architecture of the Orkney
Neolithic; and on a suite of portable decorated arte-
facts found across Britain and Ireland.
This paper presents the results of the Making a
Mark project (2014–2016), which aimed to provide a
contextual framework for the analysis of mark mak-
ing on portable artefacts in the British and Irish
Neolithic by comparing them with other mark-
making practices, including rock art and passage
tomb art. This was achieved by: i) digitally docu-
menting and analysing a suite of decorated artefacts
from across Britain and Ireland and comparing both
decorative motifs and practices of decoration with
the recorded material from passage tombs and open-
air rock art; ii) using the new dates generated by
Bayesian radiocarbon dating and modelling pro-
grammes (e.g. Bayliss et al. 2017; Marshall et al.
2016; Richards et al. 2016; Whittle et al. 2011) to pro-
vide ﬁrmer chronologies for the development of
The combination of new digital analyses and
improved radiocarbon chronologies allows us to
develop a new understanding of the practices and
changes associated with mark making over the
course of the Neolithic.
The project used digital imaging techniques,
including close-range Structure from Motion (SfM)
photogrammetry and Reﬂectance Transformation
Imaging (RTI) as a means of understanding the charac-
ter of mark making in the British and Irish Neolithic.
We do not discuss the methodological aspects of the
project here, as they are well covered by discussions
elsewhere (e.g. Jones & Díaz-Guardamino 2019,21–2;
Jones et al. 2015). Instead, we present an overview of
Cambridge Archaeological Journal Page 1 of 19 © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the McDonald Institute
for Archaeological Research. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://
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doi:10.1017/S0959774321000512 Received 9 Apr 2021; Accepted 7 Sep 2021; Revised 3 Sep 2021
the chronology of decorated artefacts in Neolithic
Britain and Ireland and an interpretation of those
From a representational perspective, Neolithic
mark-making traditions in Atlantic Europe appear
to defy evolutionary accounts of development,
being visually much simpler than many European
Upper Palaeolithic or Mesolithic traditions. The
lack of obvious representational images may
account for the fact that Neolithic mark making in
Atlantic Europe, has been frequently overlooked
in wider archaeological accounts and in synthetic
accounts of the Neolithic. How, then, should we
understand these traditions of mark making? In
the case of Britain and Ireland, rather than consider-
ing this tradition in representational terms, as an
expression of human ideas, we instead pursue a
relational analysis of mark making, by focusing on
relations and their emergent properties. In particu-
lar, we focus on two kinds of relational material
practices: the processes of marking, and the produc-
tion of skeuomorphs. We adopt Karen Barad’s
(2007)notionof‘intra-action’and Gilles Deleuze’s
( 1994) allied notion of differentiation as a
way of analysing the working of these two prac-
tices. Barad’s work on mattering, relationality and
entanglement has been previously discussed by a
number of authors in archaeology and anthropol-
ogy (Back Danielsson & Jones 2020; Crellin 2020;
Jones & Cochrane 2018; Marshall & Alberti 2014)
and the notion of intra-action is now quite a well-
worn means of discussing the relationship between
humans and materials; we discuss and develop this
concept in the context of Neolithic mark making
below. We argue that differentiation enables us to
understand the evolution and development of
mark-making traditions and how they relate to
other kinds of social practices over the course of
Figure 1. Study areas of the Making a
Mark project. (Map: © Hannah
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
The mark-making traditions of Neolithic Britain
and Ireland: a chronological overview
The Making a Mark project focused on three key
regions of Britain and Ireland (Fig. 1), although a
few key artefacts from other regions were also
analysed. These regions include: southern England
and East Anglia; the Irish Sea region (Wales, eastern
Ireland and the Isle of Man); and northeast Scotland
(including Orkney). We begin this paper by provid-
ing a chronological overview of the development
of mark-making traditions in the British and Irish
Neolithic (see also Jones & Díaz-Guardamino 2019,
Earlier Neolithic mark making in southern England
The earliest evidence for mark making, around 4050
cal. BC, comes from ﬂint mines, such as Harrow Hill
and Cissbury, Sussex, southern England (see
Whittle et al. 2011, 257). The Bayesian analysis of
radiocarbon dates from Harrow Hill by Frances
Healy and colleagues (2011) indicates that ﬂint was
worked at Harrow Hill between 4250 and 3705 cal.
BC (95 per cent probability), probably 4020–3785 cal.
BC (68 per cent probability), and working at the
mine ceased 3750–3395 cal. BC (95 per cent probabil-
ity), probably 3695–3580 cal. BC (68 per cent probabil-
ity). Intercutting linear and curvilinear marks are
found on the walls of ﬂint mines, such as shaft 21,
Harrow Hill. Digital analysis indicates at least two
phases of marking on the panel from Harrow Hill.
These marks are typically at important juncture
points in mine galleries or to mark rich seams of
ﬂint (Teather 2011).
From the thirty-seventh to thirty-ﬁfth centuries
cal. BC we also ﬁnd intercutting linear marks on
chalk plaques in the causewayed enclosures of
southern and central England. A good example of
this is the chalk plaque from Whitehawk (Fig. 2).
The four circuits of the Whitehawk enclosure,
Brighton, Sussex, begin life between the mid thirty-
seventh century and the end of the thirty-sixth cal.
BC, with a 95 per cent probability of primary use
for 75–260 years (Whittle et al. 2011, 226). Dating
from the later activity at the site is the ‘chequer-
board’incised chalk plaque from the third ditch
which dates to 3660–3560 cal. BC (95 per cent prob-
ability), probably 3650–3600 cal. BC (68 per cent
probability) (Whittle et al. 2011, 225). The decorated
artefacts associated with causewayed enclosures are
probably produced as the monuments are being
constructed and are discarded (sometimes formally)
in the backﬁll deposits at these sites. Good exam-
ples of this are the chalk artefacts, such as chalk
balls and phalli, associated with the secondary
deposits of the enclosure at Windmill Hill,
Wiltshire (Smith 1965;Whittleet al. 2011,81–96),
which date to 3365–3295 cal. BC (94 per cent prob-
ability), probably in 3355–3325 cal. BC (68 per cent
Figure 2. RTI images of the chequerboard incised chalk plaque from the third ditch of the Whitehawk enclosure
(Brighton, Sussex). (Image: Marta Díaz-Guardamino. Courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove.)
Making a Mark
Middle Neolithic mark making across Britain
After the thirty-ﬁfth century and down to the
twenty-ninth cal. BC,weobserveaﬂorescence of
mark-making activities, not only in southern
England but in eastern Ireland, northern
Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and Orkney. This is
manifested in a series of different phenomena
including the decorated antler mace heads depos-
ited in the Thames, consistently dating to between
3500 and 2900 cal. BC (see Loveday et al. 2007,389),
the antler mace head from Garboldisham, Norfolk,
decorated with three spiral designs, dating to
3240–3104 cal. BC (56.4 per cent probability)
(Jones et al. 2017)(Fig. 3), the decorated chalk
block from Monkton Up Wimborne, Dorset, dating
to 3500–3100 cal. BC (Green 2007, 118), and the
decorated stone plaque from the stone axe quarry
at site B, Graig Lwyd, north Wales (Williams &
Davidson 1998)(Fig. 4), which can be stratigraph-
ically associated with a cache of fresh stone ﬂakes
relating to axe making dating to 3110–2910 cal. BC
(Williams & Kenney 2011, 16). In several of these
cases we observe evidence for the repetitive
reworking of artefacts, or for the making and
rapid disposal of decorated artefacts (Jones &
Díaz-Guardamino 2019, 167–83).
Figure 3. Antler and ﬂint mace heads mentioned in the text. (1) Antler macehead from the Thames, Windmill Lane,
Brentford (O1154D): to the left, detail of the faceted decoration and to the right, detail of the furrowed surface; (2) Airdens
mace head: RTI images showing details of the ridge- and lozenge-shaped decoration patterns; (3) Urqhuart mace head: at
the centre, regular photographs showing the colored texture of the surface and, at the sides, the RTI images of both faces,
showing details of the ridge- and lozenge-shaped decoration patterns at the edges; (4) Garboldisham macehead,
photographs of the mace head from different angles showing the spiral decoration; (5) Knowth mace head: at the top right,
normal photograph; at the bottom, RTI images revealing the low-relief decoration (including spirals); at the top left, detail
of the lozenge-shaped decoration of the top and bottom of the mace head. (Photographs and RTIs: Marta
Díaz-Guardamino, by permission, respectively, of the Thomas Layton Trust/Museum of London, © National Museums
Scotland, © National Museums Scotland, © Moyse’s Hall Museum, © National Museum of Ireland.)
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
Mark making in Irish passage tombs and Orcadian
These artefacts emerge as local responses to an emer-
gent mark-making tradition. One of the most striking
examples of this tradition is the carved passage
tombs of eastern Ireland, particularly those in the
cemeteries of the Boyne valley and Loughcrew, Co.
Meath. Bayliss and O’Sullivan (2013,55–62) assessed
Figure 4. Graig Lwyd plaque, RTI and
annotation. (Images: Marta
Díaz-Guardamino. © National Museum
Making a Mark
the dates from a series of passage tombs across
Ireland and produced dates for ﬁrst construction of
5240–3100 cal. BC (95 per cent probability), probably
3910–3120 cal. BC (68 per cent probability), with an
end date for primary use of 3090–2905 cal. BC
(95 per cent probability), probably in 3025–2935 cal.
BC (51 per cent probability). More precise dates for
the use of passage tomb 1, Knowth, indicate the use
of the tomb beginning from 3275–3110 cal. BC and
ending 2875–2840 cal. BC (95 per cent probability)
(Schulting et al. 2017, 370). Analysis by Guillaume
Robin (2010) of the tombs of Knowth and
Newgrange (Fig. 5), in the Boyne valley complex,
demonstrates the close association between the pro-
duction of passage-tomb art and the sequential con-
struction of Irish passage tombs. The initial
construction of passage tombs begins with the inter-
ior chamber. This is followed by a succession of
extensions to the passage that enters the chamber.
During construction, intensive mark making occurs
at the junction points of the passages. This intensive
working continues throughout the use of these
monuments, and we can detect up to ﬁve phases of
cumulative carving and re-carving in the interior
Figure 5. Reworked passage tomb art,
Newgrange. (Image © Ken Williams.)
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
of the monuments, beginning with linear and geo-
metric marks and culminating in three-dimensional
sculptural designs (Cochrane 2009; Jones 2004).
A similar set of mark-making practices also
occurs in the passage tombs and settlements of
Orkney. Here, Antonia Thomas (2016;2019) has
identiﬁed a series of episodes of marking at the pas-
sage tomb of Maes Howe and at the settlement sites
of Skara Brae and Ness of Brodgar. At the recently
excavated site of the Ness of Brodgar it is possible
Figure 6. The Truro round slate plaque
(Cornwall), RTI snapshots. (Images:
Marta Díaz-Guardamino. © Duchy of
Cornwall, Cornwall Archaeological
Making a Mark
to determine that episodes of marking occured dur-
ing the building and rebuilding of these communal
Mark making and rock art in Britain and Ireland
Open-air rock art, found in landscapes in northern
England, Scotland and western Ireland, is also some-
times marked with images like those found on Irish
passage tombs, as well as being marked with dis-
tinctive cup-and-ring designs. Rock-art sites appear
to be carved over extensive periods of time, and at
these sites designs tend to interlock and extend
across the rock surface rather than being erased or
reworked, although Joana Valdez-Tullett (2019)
has identiﬁed evidence of recarving and superim-
position at a few sites, such as Barmishaw rock
(Rombalds Moor, Yorkshire), Backstone Beck 5
(Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire), Dereeny and the main
rock at Derrynablaha (Iveragh peninsula, Co. Kerry,
Ireland) and Broughton Mains and Drumtroddan 1
(Galloway, Scotland). Rock art is notoriously difﬁcult
to date, though dates of 2920–2860 cal. BC were
obtained for primary activity associated with rock-art
making at Torbhlaren, Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland
(Jones et al. 2011, 115), while pitchstone artefacts
which ﬁrmly date to the Neolithic (Ballin 2009)have
been discovered at rock-art sites in Ben Lawers,
Strathtay (Bradley et al. 2012).
The emergence of design and pattern in Later Neolithic
From the thirty-second to thirtieth centuries cal. BC a
new kind of pottery emerged in the northern Isles of
Orkney: Grooved Ware. For the ﬁrst time, pottery
was decorated with designs, such as spirals, that
had previously been reserved for other materials.
Grooved Ware is typically decorated with organized
design patterns, some of which relate to basketry.
After the twenty-ninth century cal. BC, artefacts are
also decorated with more organized kinds of designs;
these artefacts are typically associated with Grooved
Ware pottery. Good examples of this include the
round slate plaque from Woodcock Corner, Truro,
Cornwall (Fig. 6), associated with Grooved Ware pot-
tery and with dates of 2880–2570 cal. BC and 2900–
2630 cal. BC (Taylor 2019, 95). One side of this plaque
is incised with a chequerboard design, while the
opposite face is lightly incised with inﬁlled lozenge
and triangle designs (Jones & Díaz-Guardamino
2019,60–61). Similarly, the slate plaques from
Ronaldsway and Ballavarry, Isle of Man, are deco-
rated with lozenge designs and a series of registers
of zig-zag motifs; analysis of these designs using
digital imaging techniques indicates that they are
repeatedly incised and erased from the plaques
(Jones et al. 2016). Recent dates for these artefacts
suggest that they date to between the thirty-ﬁrst
and twenty-fourth centuries cal. BC (Crellin 2014,
215). The two chalk plaques from Amesbury,
Wiltshire, are also incised with lozenge designs and
a complex inﬁlled rectangular design (Harding
1988): dating these artefacts is difﬁcult, but on the
basis of similar plaques from Durrington Walls,
Wiltshire, they are likely to date from 2525–2470
cal. BC (Parker-Pearson 2012, 110). Probably the
most complex designs relate to those on the
Folkton Drums, Yorkshire (Fig. 7). These are three
chalk cylinders, each of which is intensely decorated
with complex inﬁlled triangular and lozenge designs;
these artefacts are also extensively revised and erased
(Jones et al. 2015). These artefacts, associated with a
child burial, also hint at ambiguous representational
imagery as each drum is decorated with ‘eyebrow’
motifs that resemble the human face. The Folkton
Drums remain undated, but a single date of 2814–
2678 cal. BC was derived from a similar artefact from
Lavant, Sussex (Jones & Díaz-Guardamino 2019,75).
Figuration in Later Neolithic Britain
Alongside the emergence of more organized designs
we also observe the appearance of ﬁguration. There
are several human ﬁgurines of stone from the settle-
ment at the Links of Noltland, Westray, Orkney. On
the basis of a recent Bayesian modelling programme
(Marshall et al. 2016), the occupation of the Links of
Noltland site began 3160–2870 cal BC (95 per cent
probability) and took place for 55–350 years (95 per
cent probability); the occupation ended 2850–2640
cal BC (95 per cent probability). The best known of
the ﬁgurines from the Links of Noltland (the
so-called ‘Orkney Venus’) has similar eyebrow motifs
to those of the Folkton Drums, as well as distinct dots
for eyes. The obverse of this same ﬁgurine is deco-
rated with a series of rectangular designs that may
resemble clothing; it is evident that this ﬁgurine has
been revised on several occasions, as have the other
ﬁgurines from the same site (Jones & Díaz-
Guardamino 2019, 137–8). Another striking human
ﬁgurine, this time carved in ash wood (Fig. 8), was
deposited below the Bell B trackway within a cluster
of pegs that were part of Bell A Track in the Somerset
Levels (Coles 1968; Coles & Coles 1986); radiocarbon
dates from a Bell B track ash traverse (Gak-1600,
4840±100 BP) and pegs of the Bell A track (BM-382,
4266±131 bP, and BM-383, 4021±103 BP) (Coles &
Dobson 1989) indicate that the ﬁgurine could have
been deposited between 3337 and 2287 cal. BC
(95 per cent).
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
In addition to the appearance of human ﬁgur-
ines, chalk phalli and chalk balls continued to be
made and deposited during the Late Neolithic.
Some of the most spectacular of these artefacts are
derived from henge sites in Dorset, such as Wyke
Down, Maumbury Rings and Mount Pleasant. At
Maumbury the largest chalk phallus, measuring
some 222.6 mm, was deposited midway up an
inﬁlled chalk shaft (shaft 10), in close association
with a red deer skull; this was one of several shafts
dug around the perimeter of the enclosure (Fig. 9)
(Bradley 1975). At Mount Pleasant a collection of
chalk artefacts, including chalk balls and up to ﬁve
chalk phalli are deposited in the enclosure ditch,
palisade trench and the ditch of the smaller,
site IV enclosure in the middle of the monument
(Wainwright 1979). These artefacts, particularly
those associated with site IV and the palisade, are
closely associated with the basal deposits. It seems
likely that the artefacts from Mount Pleasant and
Maumbury are derived from local chalk and were
fashioned when the monuments were constructed;
Figure 7. Folkton Drums, Yorkshire, and detail of erased eyebrows on Drum 2, RTI and annotation. (Images: Marta
Díaz-Guardamino and Eleni Koutoula. © Trustees of the British Museum.)
Making a Mark
indeed, the large scale of the Maumbury phallus is
probably due to its manufacture from the large
chalk blocks encountered when the 10 m deep chalk
shafts were dug into the lower chalk stratigraphy.
Skeuomorphs in Neolithic Britain and Ireland
We have mainly discussed the material basis of
Neolithic mark making. We now turn to another
related form of material practice: the production
of skeuomorphs. While at ﬁrst sight skeuomorphs
may seem to set up a relationship of referentiality
between prototype and copy, the relationship estab-
lished during the Neolithic appears to be relational
and is based on common, shared properties among
materials (see Conneller 2013 for a similar argument).
For example, from c. the thirty-fourth to twenty-
ninth centuries cal. BC we ﬁnd a class of carved ﬂint
mace heads from Scotland, Wales and Ireland
whose form and colour resembles that of a series
of similar carved mace heads in antler from the
Thames valley in southern England (Fig. 3) (Jones
& Díaz Guardamino 2019, 123–30).
Skeuomorphism appears to be especially signiﬁ-
cant in the Irish Neolithic and there are many
marked and carved artefacts produced of different
substances and scales in this region (Jones &
Díaz-Guardamino 2019,83–102). Bone pins are an
important feature of cremation deposits in passage-
tomb contexts; these pins are often decorated with
a series of grooves running at regular, spaced inter-
vals around their circumference. These pins are
typically made from sheep or cattle metacarpals or
metapodials and as such have a natural medullary
channel running longitudinally along the pin.
Interestingly, pins of deer antler, such as the example
from Fourknocks I passage tomb (Hartnett 1957), are
Figure 8. Somerset levels ‘God dolly’.
(Image: Marta Díaz-Guardamino.
Reproduced with thanks to the
University of Cambridge Museum of
Archaeology & Anthropology.
Accession no. 1968.6.)
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
decorated in the same fashion and also have a carved
groove running the length of their shafts; these antler
pins are then skeuomorphs of bone pins. The same
features can be observed on the large sandstone
object deposited at the entrance to the western
tomb, Knowth 1 (Cleary et al. 2017, 444–6). This
object is also decorated with a series of grooves
around its circumference, while the reverse of the
object has a channel carved running along its length;
a replication of the medullary cavity of bone pins.
Although this object is several magnitudes greater
in size than bone pins, it is nevertheless also a skeuo-
morph. Other skeuomorphs include the clay beads
from Knowth fashioned to resemble in miniature
the form of type 4b Scottish carved stone balls
(Cleary et al. 2017, 421; Jones 2012,45–8; Sheridan
Figure 9. Chalk phallus and worked chalk from Maumbury, and site plan of Maumbury. The phallus was deposited
mid-way up shaft 10, while the carved object was found at the base of shaft 14. (Artefact images: Marta Díaz-Guardamino.
Site plan: Richard Bradley (1975). Courtesy of Dorset County Museum.)
Making a Mark
2014) and miniature pestle mace heads of stone and
clay (see Jones 2012,45–8) that resemble their larger
The signiﬁcance of skeuomorphs and design during
the Neolithic of Britain and Ireland
The relational practice of skeuomorph making is
important, as skeuomorphs are a species of genera-
tive material images that grow, transform and meta-
morphose as fresh iterations are made. This relational
mode of making emerges from the thirty-fourth
century cal. BC onward, but comes to the fore by
the Late Neolithic, after the twenty-ninth century cal.
BC, when a new form of image emerges: the human
ﬁgurine. At this moment we observe the intra-action
of two differing ways of relating to materials: the
production of relational skeuomorphic forms and
the marking of materials. Some ﬁgurines, such as
the example in ash wood from the Somerset levels
trackways (Fig. 8), remained unmarked and were
discarded rapidly after production. Other ﬁgurines
receive intensive marks, such as the example from
Links of Noltland, Westray, Orkney. In addition to
the body of this ﬁgurine being repeatedly marked,
we also observe marks that may represent a face.
As noted above, and particularly associated
with Grooved Ware related contexts, we also observe
the production of organized designs on marked
artefacts, such as the alternating chequerboard
designs on the Truro plaque (Fig. 6), the lozenge
and zig-zag motifs on the plaques from the Isle of
Man, the lozenge and rectangular motifs on the
Amesbury chalk plaques and the complex lozenge
and triangle motifs on the Folkton Drums (Fig. 7).
These have a close resemblance to the kind of system-
atic patterns produced by basketry and weaving (see
e.g https://penelope.hypotheses.org/). It is difﬁcult
to establish plausibly a link between these Late
Neolithic carved motifs and woven patterns, as the
evidence for weaving is sparse during this period
in Britain and Ireland. More cautiously, we are per-
haps better recognizing that the organized designs
of the Late Neolithic are related to basketry or other
craft activities. The relationships between Grooved
Ware pottery and basket designs have long been
noted (Cleal & MacSween 1999; see also Hurcombe
2008), while there are preserved examples of Irish
Neolithic woven baskets from Twyford, Co.
Westmeath (Raftery 1970), and Carrigdirty, Co.
Limerick; this last example being dated to 3800–
3400 cal. BC (O’Sullivan 1997). In rare cases we can
see quite direct relationships between woven baskets
and Grooved Ware pottery, such as the small
Grooved Ware vessel (SF 1890) from house 3,
Barnhouse, with a distinct basket impression on its
base (Downes & Richards 2005, 70). Less directly,
Teather and Kenney (2016, 6) suggest that the
Folkton Drums may be skeuomorphic forms of lid-
ded wooden or ceramic containers. We might then
regard the relationships established between differ-
ent materials and substances through the making of
organized designs or patterns as a component of a
well-established practice of skeuomorphism.
Our account has covered two millennia of mark-
making practices, and from this we have learnt a ser-
ies of things. Firstly, mark making intersects with
other activities: with the mining of ﬂint and the
quarrying of stone, with the construction of monu-
ments, with burials. Secondly, mark making begins
as a localized practice in the south of England, but
by the thirty-ﬁfth century cal. BC we see an emerging
network of regions become connected by shared
designs and mark-making practices (these areas
include eastern Ireland, northern Scotland, Wales,
southern England, East Anglia); at this juncture the
design of marks become more visually complex.
From the thirty-second to thirty-ﬁrst centuries in
Orkney, and from the twenty-ninth century in the
rest of Britain and Ireland, we note that mark making
on artefacts becomes more organized, with distinct-
ive patterned designs appearing; these emerge along-
side a new interest in ﬁguration with the appearance
for the ﬁrst time of human ﬁgurines.
Most signiﬁcant, we have found that marks are
ephemeral, and there are numerous examples of
erasure, overcutting and reworking. In many cases,
marked artefacts are also discarded rapidly. Of par-
ticular importance is the relationship between mark
making and the materials marked. While there is a
close relationship between maker, material and
place we also need to remind ourselves that, between
the thirty-ﬁfth and twenty-ninth centuries cal. BC,
each of these artefacts is a component in a more
extensive network of connectivity that emerges
across a host of regions. Marked artefacts are at
once situated in local and inter-regional networks
of relationships (Jones 2017), though they generally
remain in the localities in which they were made.
Marked artefacts therefore contrast strongly with
unmarked artefacts, such as polished stone axes
and polished-edge knives, which are instead widely
circulated (Jones & Díaz-Guardamino 2019, 205–6).
Marking events: marking as practice in the British
and Irish Neolithic
There are two important outcomes of the Making a
Mark project. First, the use of digital imaging
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
techniques has shown for the ﬁrst time that Neolithic
mark making is a repetitive practice: marks are
ephemeral; they are made and remade, or marked
artefacts are made and rapidly discarded. Second,
our chronological analysis shows that while the
practice of remaking continues throughout the
Neolithic, we also see signiﬁcant shifts in practice,
particularly from the thirty-ﬁfth to twenty-ninth cen-
turies cal. BC, when we observe an expansion in deco-
rated artefacts, and after the twenty-ninth century
when we begin to see more organized patterned
designs on artefacts.
Neolithic mark making emphasizes the import-
ance of presence; the relationship between mark
makers and the materials-to-be-marked seems to be
of particular importance. It is also critically import-
ant that marks are manifested in speciﬁc places
(such as the marking of speciﬁc places in the land-
scape, as with rock art), and at particular moments
in time. We can see this clearly in a series of practices.
The marks that we observe on ﬂint mines are a
clear example where the event of ﬂint extraction is
marked; this practice persists from the earliest
Neolithic at sites like Harrow Hill, Sussex, to the
later Neolithic at sites like Grimes Graves, Norfolk.
It was also evident at Monkton Up Wimborne,
Dorset (Fig. 10), where a large chalk block, evidently
derived from lower chalk geology, was extracted,
carved and redeposited back into a shaft that may
have been dug for ﬂint extraction. Likewise, the
Figure 10. (Upper) Monkton Up
Wimborne chalk block as seen from
various angles. (Image: Marta
Díaz-Guardamino. Courtesy of Martin
Green); (lower) Monkton Up Wimborne
site section. (Image © Martin Green/
Making a Mark
Graig Lwyd (Penmaenmawr, north Wales) plaque
(Fig. 4) is a testament to the marking of events asso-
ciated with quarrying stone for the production of
polished stone axes.
From quite early on, marking was also related
to the events of monument building. We may detect
this in the evidence of worked chalk deposited in the
ditches of long barrows such as Thickthorn Down,
Dorset (Drew & Piggott 1936), but we observe this
particularly clearly with the large quantities of
worked chalk associated with causewayed enclo-
sures such as Whitehawk and the Trundle, Sussex
(Curwen 1929), and Windmill Hill, Wiltshire. We
would argue that chalk artefacts were probably
worked during the event of monument building
and discarded in the ﬁlls of ditches; due to the
ephemeral nature of the chalk the artefacts are
unlikely to have survived for long without rapid
deposition after making. In some cases, the event of
ditch digging itself was marked, as with the much
later causewayed enclosure at Flagstones, Dorset
(Woodward 1988; Woodward & Smith 1988), where
the ditches received marks of several phases. The
relationship between marked artefacts and monu-
ment building continues into the Later Neolithic,
where we observe decorated artefacts being asso-
ciated with the ditches, post-holes and shafts of
henges and henge-like enclosures at Woodhenge,
Wiltshire (Cunnington 1929), Wyke Down,
Maumbury (Fig. 9), and Mount Pleasant, Dorset.
We could also regard the deposition of the wooden
Somerset Levels ‘god-dolly’ﬁgurine beneath the
Bell B trackway (Fig. 8) as a worked artefact that
marked the event of the trackway construction.
In some cases, mark making marks events that
have already happened, and might signify the clos-
ure of activities at places. For example, we could
argue that the Graig Lwyd plaque marks the ﬁnal
quarrying activities at the site. In a more dramatic
fashion, the rock-art site at Copt Howe, Cumbria, is
sighted on the major Langdale Pike axe quarry.
New radiocarbon dates suggest that the end of axe-
quarrying events took place 3696–3484 cal. BC (95.4
per cent probability) (Edinborough et al. 2020),
while recent excavations at Copt Howe suggest that
the motifs are likely to have been carved 3300–2900
cal. BC on the basis of comparisons with Irish
passage-tomb art (Bradley et al. 2019, 190). If the
dates for Copt Howe are accepted, then the rock-art
site signiﬁes an important physical and temporal
threshold, after the axes, which marks the end of
activities at Langdale.
Probably the most compelling argument for
mark making being associated with the event of
monument building is the evidence of passage-tomb
art being related to the differing phases of tomb and
passage construction in Irish passage tombs (Robin
2010). Equally compelling is the evidence for mark
making being associated with the event of building
and rebuilding stone-built settlements in Orkney
Finally, mark making is also associated with the
events surrounding burial. This is most clearly
observed for the Folkton Drums, Yorkshire, and is
also the case for the abundance of decorated artefacts
associated with human remains in Irish passage
tombs. This may also be true for the deposition of
chalk in the ditches of the oval barrow at North
Marden, Sussex (Drewett et al. 1986), though here
the chalk artefacts are more likely to relate to the
event of barrow construction rather than burial.
Marking is event-based, but the potency of
marks does not persist in all cases. In many circum-
stances marked materials must be erased and
re-marked to reiterate the eventfulness of the connec-
tion between mark maker, material and place or
Marking change: marking and materials in the
British and Irish Neolithic
Not all decorated artefacts are associated with the
events of mining, quarrying, monument construc-
tion, and burial. However, at a general level marks
appear to manifest an intra-action between mark
maker and material and presence the event of their
making. Critically, the activity of mark making is
also one of differentiation. Marking is an exploratory
and experimental process closely entangled with
other kinds of activities. Marking on the surface of
these artefacts helps to differentiate the material
from its environment, marking it out as something
different. Although marks are made on portable arte-
facts, these artefacts do not appear to travel and
remain situated in their local region. Marks allow
materials to stand apart from the local, although
they also evoke marks found in other distant places.
In effect the mark helps to fold, assemble, or relate
other distant marked materials, and their attendant
set of practices, within local materials, enabling an
emerging network of relationships to be established
(Jones 2017, 92). Marks are a means by which rela-
tionships between materials are mapped, afﬁrmed
and sometimes re-aligned.
The simple act of marking is an alchemical pro-
cess. At a stroke, local materials—whether of slate or
antler, chalk, or bone—change, transform and
become elements in other distant sets of practices.
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
However, this process of marking was not a one-off
in which sets of relations are ﬁxed for all time.
Instead we observe, as with the slate plaques of the
Isle of Man, the continual and repetitive act of mark-
ing, and erasing, and re-marking (Jones et al. 2016). In
this way, the relations established between mark
maker and material, and marks and other places, is
continually reafﬁrmed or realigned.
If we consider mark making in communicative
terms, then Neolithic marking operates at a series
of registers. In many cases mark making is an intim-
ate activity, and the audience for the mark is min-
imal; possibly simply the mark maker and one or
two others, as marked materials are often rapidly dis-
carded or incorporated into monuments and settle-
ments during their building. By contrast, in some
cases, as with open-air rock-art sites, marks are
more persistent and are added to over considerable
periods of time and are therefore probably addressed
to a wider audience.
However, careful analysis of the way in which
mark making relates to materials suggests that a
more nuanced analysis would replace the terms ‘com-
munication’and ‘audience’with that of ‘intra-action’,
a notion proposed by feminist scholar Karen Barad
(2007, 33) to refer to the mutual constitution of differ-
ent agencies, subject and object, through interactions.
Materials are not the passive recipients of marks
addressed to an audience; the human mark maker
is also the audience for the material. Marks on
Neolithic artefacts, sites and monuments physically
deﬁne, and make present, the process of differenti-
ation and transformation undergone by those materi-
als. Rather like the growth rings of trees, marks
manifest the unfolding of materials over time; mark
making evokes the changes undergone by materials.
The relationship between mark making and
skeuomorphs might not be immediately apparent,
but we need to remember that, just as marks are a
way of establishing connections between materials,
so the modelling of one substance with the form of
another, a skeuomorph, is another means of drawing
attention to the relationships between materials. Both
mark making and the production of skeuomorphs
are experimental practices concerned with drawing
out and mapping potential connections and distinc-
tions between the properties of materials.
Marking, repetition and differentiation
To consider the experimental quality of mark making
and skeuomorph making further we discuss Barad’s
(2007) concept of mattering, and her associated
notion of differentiation.
Karen Barad’s work engages with Niels Bohr’s
account of quantum mechanics to argue for the
inseparability of matter and meaning. Barad (2007,
140) proposes that entities (such as materials and
humans) do not pre-exist relationships, rather they
emerge through speciﬁc intra-actions. Whereas the
term ‘interaction’implies action linking pre-existing
entities, ‘intra-action’implies action that connects,
entangles and co-constitutes entities (see above).
Matter is not distinct from human agency and dis-
course as traditional representational approaches
would have it; instead matter is substance in its
intra-active becoming. Matter is not a thing, but a
doing, it is a congealing of agency (Barad 2007,
151). Central to Barad’s analysis is that matter is a
dynamic and shifting entanglement of relations,
rather than a property of things (Barad 2007, 224).
Mattering is a process of differentiation, a way in
which the world is dynamically articulated and con-
ﬁgured. Crucially, Barad argues that this process of
differentiation can be distinguished by the marks
that persist on bodies that intra-act (these bodies
might be human, animal, or things).
The kinds of practices we have discussed for
marked artefacts during the British and Irish
Neolithic offer an excellent example of mattering;
what our analysis reveals is the marks persisting
from the intra-action between humans and materials.
These marks evince ways in which Neolithic commu-
nities in Britain and Ireland differentiated and conﬁg-
ured the relationships between different kinds of
materials. These processes of differentiation also
have an internal dynamic; differentiation encapsu-
lates change. One of the key ﬁndings of the Making
a Mark project is the ephemerality of marks and the
repetition of mark-making activities. It is precisely
this repetition that is the seed for change, since
change occurs as actions are continually repeated.
To think about the relationship between repeti-
tion and differentiation it is helpful to turn to the
work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, particularly
his book Difference and Repetition ( 1994). For
Deleuze, repetition is not related to the same thing
occurring over and over again; repetition is not
related to mimesis. Instead, he argues that repetition
is connected to the power of difference. Difference is
a productive process that produces variation through
each repetition. As such, repetition is considered in
terms of discovery and experimentation. Each new
repeated action, each intra-action (in Barad’s terms),
enables new experiences and affects to emerge.
The chronological sequence of mark-making
practices we have discussed during the British and
Irish Neolithic offers superb examples of repetitive
Making a Mark
mark making and how this gradually over time leads
to differentiation as mark-making traditions expand
geographically from the thirty-fourth to the twenty-
ninth centuries cal. BC, and then become more com-
plex and ordered after the thirty-ﬁrst century cal. BC
for Orkney, and after the twenty-ninth century cal.
BC elsewhere. Mark making leads to the discovery
of new ways of relating form, through skeuomorphs,
eventually enabling other craft activities, such as
basketry, to be modelled in novel materials, such as
pottery and chalk. Ultimately, this experimental
encounter between materials of differing forms
leads to the production of recognizable human ﬁgur-
ines. Mark making is an ongoing process which does
not end once marks are produced. Rather, marks are
the impulse for further mark making in an on-going
process of differentiation and unfolding. Neolithic
marks are not one- or two-dimensional entities;
instead they are four-dimensional events or pro-
cesses involved in the mapping of relations yet to
Our arguments concerning the importance of repeti-
tive practices of mark making and their role in the
gradual differentiation of decorated artefacts over
the course of the British and Irish Neolithic resonate
strongly with Gosden and Malafouris’(2015) recent
call for more attention to be paid to an archaeology
of process. They remark (2015, 710) that ‘important
long-term histories derive from the interaction
between the ﬂows of substances making up living
things, and of materials’. It is precisely the long-term
histories resulting from intra-actions between human
mark makers and materials that we have mapped
throughout this paper. We want to conclude by con-
sidering how these mark-making traditions intra-
relate with other activities during the Neolithic of
Britain and Ireland.
One of the key ﬁndings of our work has been the
importance of process, of a sense of on-going change
and incompleteness in Neolithic mark-making tradi-
tions. This is interesting, as archaeologists have
noted a similar sense of change and incompletion
in the monument traditions of the British and Irish
Neolithic. For example, Lesley McFadyen (2007) has
drawn our attention to the ad hoc building and
persistent reworking and revision of the long bar-
rows of the Costwold–Severn tradition. In the same
sense, causewayed enclosures have long been dis-
cussed as incomplete projects (Bradley 1993; Evans
1988). For the Later Neolithic, Jim Leary and David
Field (2010) discuss the emergent processes involved
in the construction of Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, while
Mark Gillings and Josh Pollard (2016) have likewise
drawn our attention to the movement of stones and
processes of making involved in forming the henge
at Avebury and other locations in the Avebury land-
scape. Finally, we have known for some time that the
building of one of the most famous Neolithic monu-
ments—Stonehenge, Wiltshire—was an unﬁnished
project spanning over 1500 years (Bradley 1993), a
point conﬁrmed by a new radiocarbon-dating pro-
gramme (Parker-Pearson et al. 2007).
We might also regard experimentation to be key
to Neolithic crop production, if we accept Stevens
and Fuller’s(2012) argument for the abandonment
of agriculture in the Late Neolithic. More nuanced
analyses backed by Bayesian chronologies for
Neolithic Ireland (Whitehouse et al. 2014) indicate
marked shifts towards agriculture c. 3750 cal. BC
and dips in activity from 3400 to 3100 cal. BC, while
for other regions such as Scotland, Bishop (2015)
calls into question the abandonment of agriculture
during the Later Neolithic. However we read the evi-
dence, a complex picture of regional shifts and
changes seems to emerge.
Experimentation and transformative processes
lie, too, at the heart of food production and process-
ing. The emergence of ceramics at the beginning of
the Neolithic allowed for a greater degree of com-
plexity in the processing of foods and the production
of new foods, such as bread. As Emilie Sibbesson has
recently argued (2019), it also offers the potential for
new kinds of preservation processes, such as fermen-
tation; transformation and process lie at the heart,
then, of the most fundamental Neolithic practices.
A recognition of the importance of process in
the British and Irish Neolithic has been slow in com-
ing (see also Gosden & Malafouris 2015 for a similar
point more generally). It is precisely the fact that pro-
cess has been overlooked for so long that has made
the mark-making traditions of Neolithic Britain and
Ireland so difﬁcult for archaeologists to comprehend.
Archaeologists, enculturated in the post-Renaissance
world of representations, have repeatedly attempted
to render the processes of mark making in terms of
static representations. As we have shown here, the
recognition of process in fact illuminates our under-
standing of British and Irish Neolithic mark making.
We are both grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for the
receipt of grant RPG-2014-193 for this research. We
would also like to thank Sean Taylor, Cornwall
Archaeological Unit, for his help with information on the
Andrew Meirion Jones & Marta Díaz‐Guardamino
Woodcock Corner site. Andrew Meirion Jones would also
like to thank David Wengrow for an invitation to present
this research at a conference in Freiburg, Germany; this
was an important stimulus for this paper. He would also
like to thank Ina Berg, Julian Thomas and Hannah Cobb
and the participants of a departmental seminar at
Manchester University who also provided comments
which helped shape it.
Supplemental online material
We will provide access to the digital datasets used for the research pre-
sented in this paper (i.e. RTI and 3D models).
Andrew Meirion Jones
Department of Archaeology and Classics
SE-106 91 Stockholm
Department of Archaeology
Lower Mount Joy
Durham DH1 3LE
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Andrew Meirion Jones is Professor of Archaeology,
Stockholm University, Sweden. He has taught and written
extensively on the archaeology of art, particularly rock art.
His most recent books are The Archaeology of Art. Materials,
practices, affects (Routledge, 2018) written with Andrew
Cochrane, Making a Mark: Image and process in Neolithic
Britain and Ireland (Oxbow, 2019), with Marta Díaz-
Guardamino, and Images in the Making: Art, process, archae-
ology (Manchester University Press, 2020), co-edited with
Ing-Marie Back Danielsson.
Marta Díaz-Guardamino is Lecturer in Archaeology at
Durham University, UK. Her research interests are in
European prehistory, archaeological theory, and digital
technologies. She has studied prehistoric rock art, monu-
mental sculpture and portable art from Iberia, Britain,
and Ireland, including ﬁeldwork at ﬁnd spots of stelae
and statue-menhirs. Her most recent book is Making a
Mark: Image and process in Neolithic Britain and Ireland
(Oxbow, 2019), co-authored with Andrew Meirion Jones.
Making a Mark