Stonehenge-like stone circle discovered… but farmers have known about it for generations

Archaeologists have ‘discovered’ a Stonehenge-like circle in rural Scotland – only to find that farmers and locals have known about it for generations.

The complete stone circle is near Alford, Aberdeenshire, and was reported by Fiona Bain whose family has farmed the land for years.

It is thought that the circle was constructed around 3,500-4,500 years ago and each stone stands about three feet (one meter) high. 

Experts say that although it fits the recumbent stone circle model, it is a slightly unusual example as all the stones are ‘proportionately small.’

The complete stone circle, pictured, is near Alford, Aberdeenshire, and was reported by Fiona Bain whose family has farmed the land for years

The complete stone circle, pictured, is near Alford, Aberdeenshire, and was reported by Fiona Bain whose family has farmed the land for years

The complete stone circle, pictured, is near Alford, Aberdeenshire, and was reported by Fiona Bain whose family has farmed the land for years

Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said the find was 'amazing' and that it's 'rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long.' Pictured are experts documenting the recumbent stone circle 

Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said the find was 'amazing' and that it's 'rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long.' Pictured are experts documenting the recumbent stone circle 

Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said the find was ‘amazing’ and that it’s ‘rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long.’ Pictured are experts documenting the recumbent stone circle 

Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said: ‘This amazing new site adds to our knowledge of these unique monuments and of the prehistoric archaeology of the area. 

‘It is rare for these sites to go unidentified for so long, especially in such a good condition.

‘To be able add a site like this to the record caps off what has been a fantastic year for archaeology in north east Scotland.’

What are Recumbent Stone Circles? 

Recumbent stone circles (RSC) are amongst the oldest surviving structures in Scotland. 

They were built roughly 4,000 years ago. 

They get their name because one large stone in the circle is laid on its side, or is ‘recumbent’.

This stone averages 24 tons in weight and were carefully levered and chocked-up to ensure that their upper surface was as level as possible. 

It is thought that these stones may have been used to record seasons or the passage of the moon.

In several cases, RSCs were converted into burial monuments by the building of a ring cairn within the stone circle.

Many circles were eventually used as burial areas for cremated bodies.

Up to 99 examples of RSCs have been recorded, with diameters ranging from 18.2 m to 24.4 m in Aberdeenshire.

Source: Aberdeenshire Council and Scotland Forestry Commission  

Adam Welfare from Historic Environment Scotland (Survey and Recording) explained how the monument in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie was different from other examples found.

He said: ‘In numbering ten stones it fits the average, but its diameter is about three metres smaller than any known hitherto and it is unusual in that all the stones are proportionately small.

‘It is orientated SSW and enjoys a fine outlook in that direction, while the rich lichen cover on the stones is indicative of the ring’s antiquity.’ 

Although news to archaeologists, locals have been walking their dogs past the monument for years. 

One member of a Scottish farming family, now in her 80s, said she remembered seeing the stone circle at some time in the 1930s, reports Fox.

However the circle was on farmland and far from main roads meaning it wasn’t easy to stumble upon. 

Mr Ackerman told Fox News that the stone circle near Alford may be one of the last complete examples that will be found in the northeast area of Scotland.

He said: ‘There are a few bits of Aberdeenshire and the northeast of Scotland in general that aren’t as well-surveyed as other areas — and this is one of the areas that had less work done on it in the past.’ 

Recumbent Stone Circles were constructed around 3,500-4,500 years ago and are unique to the north east of Scotland.

Their defining feature is a large horizontal stone (the recumbent) flanked by two upright stones, usually situated between the south-east to south-west of the circle.

The circle near Alford is unusual as its diameter is about three metres smaller than other sites and all the stones, one pictured, are proportionately small

The circle near Alford is unusual as its diameter is about three metres smaller than other sites and all the stones, one pictured, are proportionately small

The circle near Alford is unusual as its diameter is about three metres smaller than other sites and all the stones, one pictured, are proportionately small

They are well known and spread throughout the north east of Scotland, but it is rare to find a previously unrecorded one, especially in such a complete condition.

This newly-recognised stone circle will add to the understanding of this period of the prehistory of north east Scotland and of these remarkable sites.

Chair of the Marr Area Committee, Moira Ingleby, said: ‘This newly recorded site highlights the internationally important archaeology we have within Aberdeenshire.

‘Adding it to the record of known archaeological sites will add to the understanding of these fantastic monuments that are unique to the area.

‘Its identification highlights the importance of having archaeologists based at the Council who are able to work within the community and pick up on this local knowledge.’ 

Now that archaeologists have surveyed the stone circle, it will be included in future research into the area.

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