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Rock Art Safeguarding

26 Sep 2018
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Rock Art Safeguarding: using a mobile app to get the job done 

Aron Mazel & Myra Giesen

Rockarticles  Issue No. 18: Autumn 2017  

Rock Art Safeguarding: using a mobile app to get the job done.  Aron Mazel & Myra Giesen

Figure 1: Scratched panel

Open-air rock art panels form an iconic component of the UK and Ireland's archaeological heritage. This valuable resource is, however, under threat from increasing population densities and agricultural intensity, along with climate change, and is deteriorating. Threats include being scratched by livestock (Fig 1), dumped on the sides of fields, and driven on. 

Rock Art Safeguarding: using a mobile app to get the job done

People in the UK and Ireland now have an opportunity to contribute to the safeguarding of ancient open-air rock art by providing information about the condition of motifs and panels using a dedicated mobile app. Until now, condition assessments and risk evaluations of rock art has been a paper-based exercise. Newcastle University researchers and software developers have joined forces to convert a paper-based monitoring form into the first ever bespoke app that can be used in the countryside to monitor threats to rock art - animal and human - as well as the condition of the motifs (Fig 2). 

Rock Art Safeguarding: using a mobile app to get the job done. Aron Mazel & Myra Giesen

Figure 2: From paper to app 

The initial paper-based monitoring form was developed with the help of the public, who provided feedback on how best to represent some of the criteria that we wanted to capture on the forms (Fig 3). The app is downloadable free from Google Play (Android) or Apple iTunes (iOS), searching on 'CARE Rock Art' (see link below). Completing the app form is not a lengthy process - timing will differ between people - but it should not take longer than 5 to 10 minutes (Fig 4). An extensive 'Help' menu is available on the app to support completion of reports. It is okay to complete reports in areas without the internet, as records are queued for later uploading.

Figure 3: Developing the form 

After uploading reports, it is possible to use the web portal to review and modify individual reports. It is not, however, possible to see reports completed by other people. Once uploaded, reports are made available, via the portal, to the CARE project team, custodians of the rock art (if known), heritage agencies, and heritage officials in the counties in which the panel is located. 

Rock Art Safeguarding: using a mobile app to get the job done. Aron Mazel & Myra Giesen

Figure 4: Using the app in the field

A paper-based form can also be completed in the field and the information later entered electronically on the web portal using the 'Create Report' tab and submitted as a new report, along with two images (required for the report to be accepted). The web portal has a downloadable pdf form to support completing a paper-based form in the countryside. 

By completing a report on the CARE app or on the CARE Portal, users contribute to the scoring system that calculates a panel's overall CARE status. A scorecard has also been developed, where risks are weighted against different criteria to establish the extent of the risk; panels are categorised as being at serious risk (red), at risk (amber), or not at risk (green). Management guidance specific to the information provided in the reports and scorecards is also provided on the CARE portal. It is recommended, however, that any management interventions by the landowner and/or manager should be done in consultation with local authority archaeologists/heritage officers/appropriate bodies that support the conservation of rock art in the countryside. 

The app was produced as part of the 'Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art' project whose purpose was to undertake research into the factors that threaten open-air rock art and to develop materials that aid in its safeguarding. The CARE project is a collaboration between heritage and science research interests at Newcastle University (Myra Giesen, David Graham, Peter Lewis, and Aron Mazel) and Queen's University Belfast (Patricia Warke). The app was developed by Mark Turner and Stephen Dowsland (Newcastle University and Labyrinth Web Design). The Arts and Humanities Research Council and Newcastle University provided funding.

Press release from the Newcastle University Press Office:

'CARE Rock Art'!/

The Rock Art of Northumberland - British Isles Prehistory Archive:


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