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Last Updated: Monday, 10 May, 2004, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Boomerangs a 'British invention'
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

The famous four-armed carving on Ilkey Moor
The four-armed carving: A draw for many tourists
Children's author Terry Deary claims the famous "Swastika Stone" on Ilkley Moor in West Yorkshire proves the boomerang was invented in the UK.

The Horrible Histories writer argues the carving, said to be 3-4,000 years old, can only be a throwing device.

But Gavin Edwards, West Yorkshire's County Archaeologist, doubts the Deary interpretation and believes the rock art has a simpler explanation.

"The swastika was a common abstract symbol in prehistoric Europe," he said.

Angry Australians

The famous four-armed carving is a popular tourist attraction.

"It is one of thousands of abstract carvings on rocks in the area," Mr Edwards told BBC News Online.

Terry Deary came up with his assessment while out jogging on the moor.

"It's the earliest representation of a boomerang. There is nothing else it could be," he said.

There is evidence that many Stone Age civilisations used throwing sticks, but Aboriginal Australians have commonly been associated with their invention, about 10,000 years ago.

It is Deary's claim, however, that the Ilkley Moor carving would be the first representation of a return boomerang. Over time, the two-armed boomerang was developed.

Mr Edwards, whose job it is to protect the Ilkley Moor carvings, does not however think it is a boomerang.

"There are almost identical swastika symbols found carved on rocks in Italy, Sweden and Portugal," he says.

The swastika symbol was often used by ancient peoples. It is thought to represent the Sun. It bears only a little resemblance to the emblem used by the Nazi's in the last century.

Victorian prank

Gavin Edwards even has a sneaking suspicion that the Ilkley Moor swastika may not be entirely authentic.

"It is very difficult to date rock carvings," he said. "After all, they are just damage to the surface of a rock.

"I have no proof of this but I suspect that it is possible the Victorians - who wanted to promote the region as a place worth visiting - may have embellished some rock carvings on the moors to add to the region's appeal."

However, most of the rock carvings are undoubtedly authentic - if mysterious in origin.

"We do not know why they are there. Clearly there was a thought process behind their shapes and the places where they were carved, but we do not know what it is," Mr Edwards said.

"Remember, 4,000 years ago the moors would have been heavily wooded, meaning that we do not see them today as they were originally."

Mystery markings baffle experts
09 Oct 03  |  Tyne/Wear
Britain's 'earliest' prehistoric cave art
16 Jun 03  |  Science/Nature
Champ wants his boomerangs back
25 Jul 02  |  England
Rock discovery causes excitement
02 Feb 04  |  Cornwall
Encounter with the Moon stone
06 Mar 01  |  Science/Nature

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