A BRONZE Age piece of artwork, suspected to be the oldest in Shropshire, has been discovered in Whixall.

The artwork, which has been carved onto a large Permio-Triassic new red sandstone block, shows markings that may connect it with burial chambers or sacred sites.

The discovery was made by James and Jasmine Dowley, of Whixall, while excavating a driveway.

The monolith is in a fine but weathered condition, and is thought to be potentially of regional and national importance.

Peter Reavill from the Portable Antiquities Scheme and local archaeologist Dr George Nash helped appraise the monolith, which is now up for auction later this year.

Dr Nash said the markings were pecked 'cup-and-ring' and other marks including the main element comprising a central circular 'cup' enclosed within four concentric pecked rings extending outwards.

He continued: "Megaliths and other stones that have been enigmatically decorated with pecked cup-and-ring and other marks are well known in the British Isles and in Ireland, as well as in some areas of mainland Europe.

"They appear where the local geology provides a source of material or where erratic boulders, left behind when the glaciers retreated at the ending of the last Ice Age, are found.

"Examples have been discovered in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Cumbria in northern England but this appears to be the first example ever to have been found in the Shropshire area; others are known from Scotland and Ireland.

"The purpose or meaning of these markings remains uncertain but it has been suggested that they could have been placed on boundary markers, on stones used in chamber tombs or have been connected with sacred sites.

"The design of a central cup depression surrounded by four concentric pecked rings appears quite frequently, at sites spread across Britain and northern Europe; some are on pillars or standing stones, others on very large in-situ boulders; many show very considerable weathering from being exposed on the surface for millennia.

"The base of this piece appears to be less eroded and patinated than seen to the other surfaces so it has been suggested that this could be the apex of a standing stone monolith.

"The closest parallel to the Whixall Stone is seen with the Llwydiarth Esgob Stone, now sited away from its original context, in a private garden."

For more details about the monolith, visit timelineauctions.com/lot/the-whixall-early-bronze-age-cup-and-ring-monolith/184139/