Cup marks are a fascinating petroglyphic phenomenon found on giant stones in China, Europe, the Americas, and all over the world. They are simple, roughly hemispherical depressions of about 1-7 inches in diameter and up to an inch in depth on the surface of many megaliths, and on a number of smaller stones. Cup marks often appear in groups which can consist of more than one hundred marks on a single stone. Some are surrounded by a ring or rings which may be gapped or have a groove running through them.

Most cup marks, although often heavily eroded by weathering, do not appear to have been formed by pecks, but must have been drilled into the stone. Regarding the single cup-marked stones, it is believed that at least some of them may have originated from destroyed megaliths. Researchers have concluded that cup-marked stones do not usually appear outside the distribution areas of megaliths.

The creation of most cup marks is generally believed to have occurred at the time of the building of the megaliths (in their present arrangement) upon which they are found. These date back to the Bronze Age or Iron Age in most cases, but some have been found that were created during the late Neolithic era. Many are found on megaliths which have been covered by mounds, and some are believed to be associated with burials or cult practices involving blood sacrifice.

Of course, the true reason behind the creation of cup marks may never be known. Some quasi-scientific research suggests that these markings indicate a focus of ancient earth energies. Some of the most prominent cup-marked stones are still today known as sacrificial stones in local folklore. These offering stones may, possibly in later ages, have witnessed similar cultic acts as those megaliths which show similar cup marks. However, large erratics and megaliths without cup marks have been known as sacrificial stones or altars as well.

In other cases, cup marks on graves or stones nearby might have been signifiers of larger cosmological interrelations between monuments, living people, the landscape, the gods or ancestors. It is of interest to note that cup marks can also be found on re-used ancient stones, as well as on the new brick walls of Medieval churches. Some archaeologists postulate that a bag filled with stone fragments or powder taken from the grave of an ancestor or another holy place may have lent support in an argument, served as a talisman, or provided a key ingredient in certain medicines. In the Medieval period, pulverized material from ancient stone axes was also used as a cure for diseases.

While drilling a cup mark into a stone which is part of (or associated with) an ancient burial, and possibly re-using the stone material gained, might have been important in other ways, I have found that there is little scientific speculation regarding the coincidence of these marks scattered across the globe.

How could relatively identical stone markings be created in prehistoric times by so many different indigenous peoples, separated by oceans and vast expanses of land? And what do the markings truly signify? A cryptic alphabet of some sort, perhaps; and if so, of what origin? Are these markers signifying a globally recognized means of communication that has been lost to modern understanding, or are they merely a common geometric form that was adopted independently by disparate civilizations as a means of identifying completely unrelated significancy?

Despite the mystery surrounding these stone markings, they are beautiful and magical in their variances of design and location. One can only hope that some day a true scientific understanding of these primitive impressions will be realized.

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