THE weird and wonderful tale of the amateur archaeologist and the 5000-year-old artwork that he decorated 80 years ago is to be told later this month.

The Cochno Stone near the Faifley housing estate in West Dunbartonshire is a huge gritstone outcrop covered in prehistoric art, featuring dozens of carefully carved circular cup marks – Cochno means little cups in Gaelic.

There are also cup-and-ring marks across an area of almost 100 sq m, with all the original decorations having been made around 3000 years BC. Further decoration was added in 1937 by Ludovic McLellan Mann, an eccentric amateur archaeologist.

After unwanted decoration by vandals and graffiti artists, in 1965 the then Ministry of Works decided to bury it beneath tons of soil and rock. The stone was only briefly excavated last year by a team led by Kenneth Brophy, senior lecturer in archaeology at Glasgow University.

He said: “In the summer of 1937, Ludovic McLellan Mann painted the surface of the Cochno Stone with yellow, white, red, green and blue oil paints. He believed that the mysterious symbols on the stone represented a cosmological story, related to how prehistoric people learned how to predict eclipses, and so defeat the eclipse monster.

“When we uncovered the Cochno Stone in 2016, much of Mann’s paint was still visible on the surface of the stone although he kept few notes and records related to his paint job.”

On November 23, as part of the Glasgow hub of the Being Human festival, events will be taking place in Faifley to mark the 80th anniversary of Mann’s decoration of the Cochno Stone.

A comic book has been written about the story of the Cochno Stone by artist Hannah Sackett, and workshops allowing local children in Edinbarnet Primary School to draw their own eclipse monster comics will run during the day.

In the evening, between 6pm and 8pm, their work, original artwork for the comic, and information about the Cochno Stone excavations will be displayed in a free event in the main hall in the Skypoint centre, Faifley.

Brophy told The National: “I find the Cochno Stone fascinating because unlike almost all prehistoric rock-art sites in Scotland, this one is right on the doorstep of thousands of people and easy to get to – and the same goes for other rock-art sites in the same park which are still visible today.

“This kind of urban prehistory is often overlooked but has huge social value and really matters to those who live beside it.

“It has an amazing modern story too, from Ludovic Mann’s painting of the stone, to local people and visitors carving their names onto the stone in the 1950s and 1960s. These memories are what makes it special to so many people locally.

“Sadly, the Cochno Stone is buried just now, but I hope by working with the local community and schools that we can bring this amazing ancient site back to life for people, and use the prehistoric archaeology to promote how special a place this really is.”