Quartz Stone, Brae of Cultullich, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 88104 49001

Also Known as:

  1. Brae of Cultullich (4)

Getting Here

The cupmarked Quartz Stone

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go down here and follow the slightly meandering track for 0.8 miles (1.3km), a short distance past the Ursa Major Stone where the track splits.  Take the track to the left and there, less than 100 yards on you’ll hit a large boulder on your left.  That’s it!

Archaeology & History

Not previously recorded, this simple cup-marked stone will probably only be of interest to petroglyph aficionados, or those folk who are into  ‘energies’ at sites.  This latter aspect is due entirely to the carving being etched onto a huge rock, much of which is composed of quartz—which isn’t too unusual in this part of the world.  But that aside…

Looking down at the cups
The cupmarks highlighted

It is one in a group of carvings within a few hundred yards of each other, with its nearest neighbour 20 yards to the north.  That one’s covered in cups—but on this large Quartz Stone, only two of them exist, on the top near the centre.  Just a couple of inches across and half-an-inch deep, they’re pretty clear once you see them.  The raised piece of ground behind the stone is artificial and has variously been described by antiquarians and archaeologist alike, as either a prehistoric dun, or a stone circle.  Whatever it may be, some of it is certainly man-made.  Check it out – and mebbe ask the friendly fat fella who lives nearby what he thinks.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.619461, -3.825080 Quartz Stone

Ursa Major Stone, Brae of Cultullich, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 87958 49022

Also Known as:

  1. Brae of Cultullich (3)

Getting Here

The stone from the trackside

Out of Aberfeldy, take the A826 road as if you’re going up Glen Cochill.  Not far up, just where the housing of Aberfeldy itself ends and the green fields open up either side of you, keep on the road for a half-mile where you meet a small copse of trees on your left, with a dirt-track that runs down the slope.  Go down the track, bending to the right, then the left and then on for a quarter of a mile until the lines of trees appear either side of you.  Barely 200 yards along, the track swerves slowly to your right, and the field above you slopes uphill.  Keep your eyes peeled at the fencing on your right and you’ll see a stone sloping towards you right by the fence with faint cupmarks on it.  You’ll find it!

Archaeology & History

A truly fascinating cup-marked stone recently uncovered by Paul Hornby on another one of our TNA meanderings. Fascinating because of the curious arrangement of the cups on the stone.  Often, cup-marked stones have little to interest the causal visitor – but this one’s different.  As can be seen quite clearly, the cups are arranged in the shape of the constellation of the Great Bear, or Ursa Major – albeit with an extra ‘star’ in this design.  But it’s damn close!  In all likelihood (he says with his sceptical head on 😉 ), the design is fortuitous when it comes to the Ursa Major.  I know from many years experience how easy it is to see meaningful shapes and designs in the almost entirely abstract British petroglyphs, but the design is very close to the constellation we all got to know when we were kids.

Looking along the stone
Gazing down at Ursa Major

The stone itself slopes upwards at an angle of about 60º, before starting to level out as it rises.  All of the cupmarks have been pecked onto this sloping surface (the vast majority of carvings are found on top of stones).  Altogether, at least twelve faint and shallow cups were exposed when we looked at it—measuring the usual inch to inch-and-half across—but it is likely that more of them are hidden beneath the turf at the top of the stone.  We could discern no rings or other features in the design.

This is just one carving amidst a good cluster of petroglyphs within a few hundred yards of each other (the Quartz Stone being one of the nearest) that are well worth checking out if you like your rock art.  It may also be of interest to astronomy students, or those exploring archaeo-astronomy.

References:

  1. Yellowlees, Sonia, Cupmarked Stones in Strathtay, RCHAMS 2004.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.619617, -3.827468 Ursa Major Stone

Machar Stones, Fintry, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 65705 83932

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 45311
  2. Waterhead Stones

Getting Here

The Machar Stones

The Machar Stones

Of the 2 ways to reach here: one via the Crow Road, up to Waterhead Farm and then meandering through the forest—we took the other one!  From the car park at the western end of Carron Reservoir, take the track into the forest. Stick to the track closest to the loch until, after crossing the small river bridge, veer right at the next junction 200 yards on.  Another 600 yards (0.5km) along, take the right turn and walk all along this track to the very end.  From here, take your feet down into the opening along the small burn and stick to this gap in the trees for 100 yards or so, where the gap in the trees veers left.  Keep walking for another 200 yards.

Archaeology & History

These stones might take some finding, but they’re worth the effort if you like your megaliths.  When Nina, Paul and I visited them yesterday, the meander turned into what have become known as Barmy Bennett Bimbles as we ventured off-path and into the forest, wading through marshland and getting our eyes poked out in the dense trees!  And then the snow came. Twas gorgeous to be honest…

Machar Stones, looking SE

Machar Stones, looking SE

Machar Stones, looking west

Machar Stones, looking west

Probably neolithic in origin, the Machar Stones are set upon an elevated rise above the confluence of the Bin Burn and the River Carron on what seems to be an enhanced artificial platform, akin to those which some stone circles and ring cairns are mounted upon. Around the edges of the stones themselves, the earth has been dug into at some point in the past, as evidenced by the distinct oval dip in the ground surrounding the stones; although I can find no antiquarian accounts describing such a dig.  There is the possibility that these stones may once have marked the site of a prehistoric tomb.

Once you walk ten yards away from the stones in any direction, you begin to walk downhill.  Sadly the trees presently obscure any view from the stones, completely silencing the panorama that quite intentionally awoke from here in centuries gone by, disabling any immediate visual landscape analysis or geomancy.  The proximity of the two rivers was probably relevant in the construction of the stones; as may be the ridge between the Little and Meikle Bin to the southeast.

First described in Nimmo’s Stirlingshire (1817) as “a druidical remain…in the parish of Fintry, about the middle of the moor towards Campsie and northwest of the Meikle Bin”, another early account of these megaliths was in H.G. Smith’s (1896) work on the parish of Strathendrick, before the imposition of the modern ‘forest’ occurred and the views from the stones were unrestricted.  After describing their geographical position, he told:

“On a comparatively level part of the muirland between the two rivers and under Meikle Bin, there are two old standing stones known locally as the Machar Stones, this name being derived from the Gaelic magh, a plain.  The more northerly stones measures 8 feet in height, and the other is 5 feet 7 inches high.  Little…is known of the origin of these standing stones… They were apparently in some way connected with the religious worship of the prehistoric inhabitants of the land.  The general uniform direction in which they point, which is to the north of east, looking as nearly as possible to the quarter of sunrise at the summer solstice, seems to point to their having been erected by a race of sun worshippers.”

Machar Stones, looking NW

Machar Stones, looking NW

Around the same time, A.F. Hutchison (1893) gave a lecture on these and other Stirlingshire megaliths, giving slight variants on the heights of the monoliths, adding that “the two stones are standing in a line pointing to 220°.”  Sadly, even the great authorities of Aubrey Burl (1993) and Alexander Thom (1990), in their respective tomes on the subject, were unable to define any astronomical alignments here.  Hutchison puzzled about the seeming artificiality of the platform upon which the stones appear to have been set, though wrote how “geological authority pronounces it to be a quite natural formation.”

As to the name of the site, William Grant (1963) ascribes the word ‘Machar’ and its variants to mean “a stretch of low-lying land adjacent to the sand” or “low-lying fertile plain”—which doesn’t seem relevant here, unless it was so named by people living on the higher grounds.  It seems odd… As does the alignment of the stones.  When Nina Harris stood between the stones with a compass to work out the cardinal points, the stone that was leaning was due north of the upright stone.  When she walked several yards away from them, the compass deviated and we were given a more northeast-southwest alignment from stone to stone.  This isn’t too unusual as we find similar magnetic anomalies at other megalithic sites in Britain (see Devereux 1989), due to a variety of geophysical ingredients.

Royal Commission 1954 photo

Royal Commission 1954 photo

Not that your bog standard archaeo-tomes ever mention magnetic anomalies, as basic physics is too complex a subject for your standard archaeo-types!  Instead however, we just get the usual measurements and data-sets, much as the Royal Commission (1963) lads gave us after their visit here in 1954—but at least there was no forest when they came here!  They were fortunate.  “These two stones,” they told us,

“stand on a slight eminence in open moorland, half a mile ENE of Waterhead farmhouse and at an elevation of 850ft… Described by Nimmo’s editor as “a Druidical remain”, they have also been nown as the Machar Stones.  The more northerly stone, a four-sided pillar of irregular section, has fallen almost prostrate and its whole length, 7ft 6in, is revealed.  At the centre it measures 3ft in width by 2ft 6in in breadth.  The other stone stands 4ft 6in further S.  It is a slab…standing to a height of 5ft and measuring about 2ft in thickness.  Its width is 2ft 8in at ground level, 3ft 8in at a point 2ft above this, and 2ft at the top.”

They posit the idea that the reason the taller stone is leaning at such an angle was due to there being a prehistoric cist nearby which had been ‘excavated’ by peoples unknown, who then took it upon themselves to explore the Machar Stones with similar venture.

The 'cup-marked' stone

The ‘cup-marked’ stone

In recent years it has been said that there are cup-markings on the leaning stone, seven of them apparently.  When we visited yesterday they were difficult to make out.  There were a number of ‘cups’ on the stone, but these were debatable and seemed more the result of conglomerate disintegration than man-made.  A couple of them were perhaps ‘possibles’.  However, the light was poor and I’d prefer another visit before making my mind up!

The Machar Stones are quite evocative megaliths, despite their lack of grandeur.  Maybe it was the snow.  Maybe it was the trees.  Maybe it was me.  Or probably a mix of all three and more; but this had a real feel to the place.  Well hidden, miles from human touch or visits, awaiting just the occasional visitor—and in this weather (of floods, downpours, cold and snow) saturated humans would be the only sorts of crazy people whose spirits would risk getting completely lost to find them.  And my god were they worth the effort!  Paul, Nina and I thought so anyway!

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Devereux, Paul, Places of Power, Blandford: London 1990.
  3. Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  4. Grant, William (ed.), Scottish National Dictionary – volume 6, SNDA: Edinburgh 1963.
  5. Hutchison, A.F., “The Standing Stones of Stirling District,” in The Stirling Antiquary, volume 1, 1893.
  6. Nimmo. William, History of Stirlingshire, Andrew Bean: Stirling 1817.
  7. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirlingshire – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  8. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Stirling District, Central Region, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1979.
  9. Smith, H. Guthrie, Strathendrick and its Inhabitants from Early Times, James Maclehose: Glasgow 1896.
  10. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  Huge thanks to Nina Harris and Paul Hornby for their endurance and endeavor in locating these great old stones, in attendance with the great rain, snow and deep muddy bogs!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.029423, -4.156546 Machar Stones

Dumgoyach Stones, Strathblane, Stirlingshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NS 53269 80727

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 44605
  2. Dungoiach
  3. Duntreath

Getting Here

Approaching Dumgoyach Hill

Approaching Dumgoyach Hill

You can either find your way to Duntreath Castle on the western edges of Strathblane and walk SW straight up the steep grassy slope next to the wooded Dumgoyach Hill; or… From Carbeth, north along the A809, turn right up the B821 Ballachalairy Yett road for 1km and park where the path of the West Highland Way runs onto the hills. Follow this path for nearly ½-mile and where the path splits, bear left.  Keep walking downhill for a few hundred yards, then go off-track towards the copse of trees. Climb over the gate and onto the grassy plain between this copse and the huge rounded Dumgoyach Hill.  The stones are very close indeed…

Archaeology & History

This is a truly stunning site – not as much for the megaliths that are here, but for the setting in which they’re held.  “Magnificent” is the word that rolled out of my mouth a number of times; whilst respected activist and ‘Organic Scotland’ creator Nina Harris said, quite accurately, “it’s Caras Galadhon in Lothlorien!” (or words to that effect) – and she hit the nail much better than I did!

Royal Commission 1963 sketch

Royal Commission 1963 sketch

Dumgoyach Stones (by Nina Harris)

Dumgoyach Stones (by Nina Harris)

A short line of large standing stones remains here, both upright and leaning, running NE-SW for 7 yards: seemingly a part of some other much larger monument in times long past—although very little else remains.  The stones are set upon a rise of land, quite deliberately in front of Dumgoyach Hill (or Lothlorien, as Nina called it) almost as a temple or site of reverence.  You’ve gotta see it to appreciate what I’m saying!  Like some gigantic tree-covered Silbury Hill, the standing stones on this ridge possess an undoubted geomantic relationship with this rounded pyramid, all but lost in the sleep of local myths and land.  A few yards away from the line of stones there is a slight rise in the land, seemingly giving weight to the idea that something else was living here: an architectural feature that Aubrey Burl (1993) thinks might have been “the facade of a chambered tomb” (neolithic in origin) and not merely a megalithic alignment.  He may be right…

Close-up of the megaliths

Close-up of the megaliths

Described briefly in J.G. Smith’s (1886) magnum opus on the Strathblane parish, antiquarian accounts of this impressive site seem curiously rare.  One of the earliest recognised accounts was done by the Royal Commission (1963) lads who measured the site up with their usual diligence.  Although getting the alignment of the stones wrong, the rest of their survey seems pretty accurate. They told that,

“There are five standing stones (A-E) arranged in a straight line… Three of the stones (A, B and C) are earthfast, while the other two (D and E) are recumbent.  Stone A is of irregular shape and leans steeply towards the N.  The exposed portion measures 4ft in height, 2ft 6in in breadth and 1ft 2in in thickness.  Stone B stands upright, 6ft NE of A.  It is a pillar of roughly rectangular section with an irregularly pointed top, and measures 5ft in height by about 2ft 6in in thickness.  Stone C, also irregular in shape, 11ft 6in NE of B, is inclined so steeply to the NNE that it is almost recumbent.  It measures 4ft 4in in height, 2ft 6in in breadth and 1ft in thickness. The remaining two stones lie on the ground between B and C.  Stone D measures 5ft 5in in length, 3ft in breadth and 1ft 6in in thickness while stone E, which rests partly on D, measures 7ft 10in in length, 3ft 9in in breadth and 3ft in thickness.”

Aubrey Burl’s (1993) description of the site—which he called Blanefield—is another good synopsis of what is known historically and astronomically about the site.  Assessing them in his detailed work on megalithic alignments, he said that,

“At Blanefield near Strathblane in Stirling a big stone, its longer sides aligned east-west, stands at an angle amongst a southwest-northeast line of four others, fallen, of which one just off the line seems to have been added this century.  The setting has been presumed a collapsed four-stone row.  Known also as Duntreath and Dumgoyach, the setting is slightly concave.

“‘This ruinous alignment indicates notches to the northeast and these show approximately the midsummer rising sun.’ ‘The standing stone has a flat face exactly aligned on a hill notch to the east,’ quite neatly in line with the equinoctial sunrises.  These astronomical analyses would seem to confirm that Blanefield was undoubtedly a row set up by prehistoric observers to record two important solar events.

“Excavation in 1972 discovered signs of burning, flints and charcoal that yielded a C-14 assay of 2860±270 BC (GX-2781), c. 3650 BC, a time in the Middle Neolithic when chambered tombs were still in vogue, but an extremely early date for any stone row.  This, coupled with Blanefield’s isolated position for a row in central Scotland, raises doubts about its origins.

“It is a lonely megalithic line, those nearest to it being over forty miles (64km) to the west in Argyll.  Straddling a ridge overlooking the Blane Water it is arguable that the stones are relics of the crescent facade of a Clyde chambered long cairn with an entrance facing the southeast….”

Dumgoyach Stones, with Dumgoyne to the North

Dumgoyach Stones, with Dumgoyne to the North

However, there was once another stone row close by, known as the old Stones of Mugdock.  Burl then cites the proximity of four nearby neolithic long cairns not too far away, with the Auchneck tomb just 3½ miles (5.6km) to the west; although it seems that Nina Harris may have discovered another one, much closer still (TNA will have a preliminary report on this in the coming months).

Folklore

Local legend reputes that King Arthur was up and about in this part of the world, fighting in a battle nearby.  And in J.G. Smith’s (1886) excellent work on the parish of Strathblane, he told that,

“The standing stones to the south-east of Dungoyach probably mark the burial place of Cymric or Pictish warriors who fell in the bloody battle of Mugdock.”

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Feachem, Richard, Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, Batsford: London 1977.
  3. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  4. MacKie, Euan W., Scotland: An Archaeological Guide, Faber: London 1975.
  5. Ritchie, J.N.G., “Archaeology and Astronomy,” in Heggie, D.C., Archaeoastronomy in the Old World, Cambridge University Press 1982.
  6. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments Scotland, Stirling – volume 1, HMSO: Edinburgh 1963.
  7. Smith, John G., The Parish of Strathblane, James Maclehose: Glasgow 1886.
  8. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  9. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – volume 1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

Acknowledgements:  A huge thanks to Nina Harris, of Organic Scotland, for both taking me to these stones and sharing her photos for this site profile.  Cheers Nina!

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.996968, -4.354236 Dumgoyach stones

Firbhreige, North Uist, Outer Hebrides

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NF 7700 7031

Also known as:

  1. Canmore ID 10079
  2. Toroghas

Getting Here

This is nice n’ far north indeed – north-west Uist in fact!  Hit the A865 road northwest to the village of Ceann a’ Bhaigh.  By the little church at the little crossroad, take the track on your right which leads you into the hills.  Go all the way to the end of this track and walk straight north for a couple of hundred yards, as if you’re heading up the hill, Toroghas, in front of you.

Thom’s drawing of the Stones & possible alignments

 

Archaeology & History

Here are two small standing stones, each not much more than three-feet tall, about 40 yards apart.  Alexander Thom (1984) looked for astronomical alignments here, but found very little, merely commenting:  “From here a number of sites are visible, but the (easternmost) stone might be said to indicate Craig Hasten or Deaskeir Islet.”  In his own analysis of the site, Clive Ruggles (UI23 – 1984) also found such astronomy lacking here.

Folklore

In Thom, Thom & Burl’s (1990) description of these two small stones, Aubrey Burl mentioned how “their name is similar to the stones on Skye called ‘Na Fir Bhreige’, or ‘the false men’. This has been variously interpreted as meaning men who were turned to stone for being unfaithful to their wives or, alternatively, to stones that from a distance resembled men.”  Which is apparently the tale here. (see Grinsell 1976)

Comparative religious studies clearly indicate that legends of petrified beings are representative of the spirits of the ancestors residing in the said stones or other artifact.  If there’s any validity to this ingredient, it would imply that some prehistoric burials can be found nearby — though my archaeo-records show nothing (but that doesn’t mean they’re not there).  If there anyone goes wandering hereabouts in the near future, see if you can find any tombs in the locale.

References:

  1. Beveridge, Erskine, North Uist: Archaeology and Topography, William Brown: Edinburgh 1911.
  2. Ruggle, C.L.N., Megalithic Astronomy, BAR: Oxford 1984.
  3. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, A., Stone Rows and Standing Stones, vol.1, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.606722, -7.410245 Firbhreige stones

Stratford St. Mary Cursus, Suffolk

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – TM 0486 3433

Archaeology & History

Faint flat outline of SE end + ancient circular enclosure

This short and dead straight cursus monument was first described in John Hedges’ (1981) survey, and later mentioned in Harding & Lee’s (1987) corpus on British henges as being in conjunction with a series of circular prehistoric monuments (three circular enclosures existed beyond its southeast and one to its northeast edges, one of which is visible in the aerial image, right).

Cursus ground-plan (courtesy Suffolk Institute Archaeology)

Most of the monument has been completely destroyed by roads and housing, but when complete was said to be 317 yards (290m) long, running from the southeast to the northwest.  The flattened southeastern edge measures nearly 63 yards (57.3m) across, and its northernmost width was close to 65 yards (60m) wide.

In Patrick Taylor’s (2015) assessment of this (and other monuments) he thought that the cursus may have served an astronomical function.  He may be right.  It’s alignment, he told,

“has a very clear orientation 38.5º north of grid west.  This represents an amplitude from true west of 40.9º.  Allowing for a latitude of 51.97º and altitude of 0.95º, adjusted downwards for refraction to 0.50º, we get from (Alexander) Thom’s table a declination for a body setting to the northwest of 24.15.º  This is only 0.23º, just less than half the width of the sun’s disc, more than the sun’s maximum declination in Neolithic times of 23.92º.  The alignment thus points rather accurately towards the upper limb or last setting point of the sun.”

Faint remnants of a second cursus monument have been discovered 400 yards to the east.

References:

  1. Harding, A.F. & Lee, G.E.,, Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
  2. Hedges, John D. & Buckley, David, Springfield Cursus and the Cursus Problem, ECC 1981.
  3. Last, Jonathan, “Out of Line: Cursuses and Monument Typology in Eastern England,” in Barclay & Harding’s Pathways & Ceremonies, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  4. Martin, Edward A., “When is a Henge not a Henge?” in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, volume 35, 1981.
  5. Taylor, Patrick, Timber Circles in the East, Polystar: Ipswich 2015.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, for use of their ground-plan diagram from Edward Armstrong’s article, ‘When is a Henge Not a Henge?’ 

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

Stratford St Mary cursus

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Stratford St Mary cursus 51.969742, 0.981015 Stratford St Mary cursus

Staniston Hill, Stainburn, North Yorkshire

Standing Stone (lost):  OS Grid Reference – SE 2522 5010

Archaeology & History

Staniston Hill on 1851 map
Staniston Hill on 1851 map

This long-lost standing stone gave its name to the small hill between the geological giants of Little Almscliffe and Almscliffe Crags, ‘Staniston Hill.’  Described as early as the 13th century in the Cartulary of Fountains Abbey as ‘Standandestan’, its precise whereabouts is unknown—but it’s damn close to the grid-reference cited here.  As the early OS-map shows, a small rounded hill occurs a short distance northwest of the small copse of trees now growing.  The monolith may have been felled by some grumpy christian, or it could be standing in some nearby walling.  Local antiquarians, dowsers or archaeologists may or may not find a search for it worthwhile…

Its position between the two Almscliffe Crags makes it very close to marking the midway point of a natural solstice marker: the Winter sunrise from Little Almscliffe and summer sunset from the greater Almscliffe.

References:

  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Smith, A.H., The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire – volume 5, Cambridge University Press 1961.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Staniston Hill

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Staniston Hill 53.946395, -1.617244 Staniston Hill

Dalchirla (east), Muthill, Perthshire

Standing Stones:  OS Grid Reference NN 82446 15893

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 25355

Getting Here

Dalchira's standing stones
Dalchira’s standing stones

Along the A822 road between Crieff and Muthill, take the small western country lane just as you’re coming out of Muthill. Nearly 2 miles on, take the turn to the right, and then 100 yards or so from there turn sharp left. Keep along this country lane for about a mile till you reach the third track on your left.  Walk down the track and you’ll see the standing stones in the field on your left. A gate into the field is by the house.

Archaeology & History

A fascinating pair of relatively large standing stones 317 yards (289.5m) SSE of the tall singular monolith of Dalchira North in the adjacent field.  Traditionally said to have once been part of s stone circle, it was marked as such when the Ordnance Survey lads came here in 1863, but there is very little evidence of such a megalithic ring today—and even the small stone lying in between the two uprights is probably a more recent addition to the site.  It certainly wasn’t mentioned by Fred Coles (1911) when he came here, who gave only a brief description of the place.

Dalchira East & the skyline notch of Lurgan Hill
Dalchira East & the skyline notch of Lurgan Hill
Dalchira, looking east
Dalchira, looking east

The stones were included in Margaret Stewart’s (1968) list of megalithic pairings as measuring 7ft 6in x 4ft 3in x 2ft and 4ft 3in x 3ft 6in x 1ft respectively, and 8ft apart.  There is a small stone laid down in between them which has cup-marks on it, but these indentations are natural nodules in conglomerate rock.  But the measurements and angles of Dalchira East were examined by the late great Alexander Thom (1967; 1990) who thought they had been positioned specifically to observe and predict lunar movements across the sky, saying that the alignment of these stones “shows the declination of the Moon rising at the minor standstill.”  He may have been right.

Thom's geometry of Dalchirla
Thom’s geometry of Dalchirla

In Aubrey Burl’s notes to Thom (1990) he told that the size and shapes of these stones “have been interpreted as anthropomorphic, the taller, or alternatively the more pointed , usually at the west, being the male, the lower or flat-topped he female.” He subsequently included this site in his own work on megalithic stone rows (Burl 1993), without further comment.

Tis a peculiar site inasmuch there doesn’t seem to be much ‘feeling’ to the place.  I’m sure the site is gonna have its days, but more than likely the neat and tidy farmed theatre has subsumed the genius loci to all but the most auspicious of times—most likely generated when the pull of the Moon still tugs at any geomagnetic background memory… Still, it’s definitely worth looking at.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, From Carnac to Callanish, Yale University Press 1993.
  2. Coles, Fred, “Report on Stone Circles Surveyed in Perthshire, Principally Strathearn” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 45, 1911.
  3. Finlayson, Andrew, The Stones of Strathearn, One Tree Island: Comrie 2010.
  4. Heggie, Douglas C., Megalithic Science: Ancient Mathematics and Astronomy in Northwest Europe, Thames & Hudson: London 1981.
  5. Stewart, Margaret E.C., “Excavation of a Setting of Standing Stones at Lundin Farm near Aberfedly, Perthshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Scotland, volume 98, 1966.
  6. Thom, Alexander, Megalithic Sites in Britain, Oxford University Press 1967.
  7. Thom, A., Thom, A.S. & Burl, Aubrey, Stone Rows and Standing Stones – 2 volumes, BAR: Oxford 1990.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.320787, -3.902278 Dalchirla (east)

Rudston ‘D’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus: OS Grid Reference – TA 099 717 to TA 096 679

Archaeology & History

Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)
Plan of Rudston D Cursus & associated monuments (after I.M. Stead 1976)

To the north of Rudston village and its giant standing stone, running roughly parallel with the divinatory waters of the Gypsey Race river and passing a mass of prehistoric remains en route, we find one the biggest prehistoric cursus monuments in the British Isles: the Rudston D cursus.  More than twice as long as any of the three other cursus monuments nearby, its northern end or ‘terminal’ is flattened in nature (others are rounded) and is due east of the village of Burton Fleming starting at the intriguingly-named Maidens Grave field, just as the land begins to rise at TA 099 717.  From here it begins its almost southern trajectory and runs almost dead straight for several hundred yards until edging, ever so slightly in direction, to a slightly more secure southern alignment.  Past the site of the Rudston henge, the cursus broadens out slightly and, as it reaches the farmlands of Littlethorpe, edges slightly further to a more decisive direct southern route.  The cursus then maintains a dead straight course for another mile, heading straight for, and stopping just short of the Rudston monolith in its modern churchyard.  A short distance before we reach its southern end, archaeologists found that a section of the Cursus C monument cut right across it.  Altogether, the Rudston D Cursus is more than 4km (2.3 miles) long!  At its narrowest width, this monument is a mere 160 feet (50m) across, and at its widest is 280 feet (90m).  A giant by anyone’s standard!

Along the entire length of this continuous ditch and inner bank there were just 3 small cuttings on the western side and three on the east, but two of the eastern openings were quite large.  Some of these openings were affected by natural elements and others by modern agriculture. Today, much of this gigantic ritual monument (as the archaeologists call them) is not visible at ground level.

In visiting this area, make yourself aware of the other monuments in this class: the Rudston A cursus and Rudston B cursus, southeast and southwest of here respectively. A full multidisciplinary analysis of the antiquities in this region is long overdue.  To our ancestors, the mythic terrain and emergent monuments hereby related to each other symbiotically, as both primary aspects (natural) and epiphenomena (man-made) of terra mater: a phenomenon long known to comparative religious students and anthropologists exploring the animistic natural relationship of landscape, tribal groups and monuments.

References:

  1. Burl, Aubrey, Rites of the Gods, J.M. Dent: London 1981.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  5. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

Links:

  1. ADS: Archaeology of Rudston D – Brief archaeological notes on the longest of the four known cursuses in the region.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Rudston 'D' Cursus

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Rudston \'D\' Cursus 54.114347, -0.321356 Rudston \'D\' Cursus

Rudston ‘C’ Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus:  OS Grid Reference – TA 0914 6809 – TA 1014 6803

Archaeology & History

D.P. Dymond's 1966 sketch of Rudston 'C' cursus
D.P. Dymond’s 1966 sketch of Rudston ‘C’ cursus

Of the four giant linear cursus monuments that were laid out around the landscape that holds Britain’s largest standing stone—the Rudston monolith—this one, the Rudston ‘C’ cursus, is the one we know the least about. This is mainly due to it receiving the minimum of archaeological attention, which can be forgiven round here as there is so much material to explore!  Traces of the cursus at ground level are also quite negligible.  Thankfully however, like the other cursus monuments nearby, some of the site can be made out on GoogleEarth.  

The alignment of this cursus runs east-to-west, cutting across the Cursus D monument and then running above the northern course of Nature’s curious river known as the Gypsey Race, which local folklore ascribes as being used in animistic divinatory practices.  Cursus C was first noticed in aerial photographs taken by Prof. J.K. St. Joseph in 1961 and first described by D.P. Dymond (1966) a few years later, who told us:

“Immediately north of the village (Rudston), two parallel ditches, about 60 yards apart, are visible as crop-marks running east-west for 1000 yards… As they are too far apart to be considered as road-ditches and are similar to the linear ditches (of Rudston A and B), they are best interpreted as a fragment of a third cursus, C. The western end fades out near the York road as it climbs onto high ground, while at the east the ditches disappear into Bridlington Gate Plantation.  Like Cursus A, this also crossed the Gypsey Race. Approximately 1½ miles northwest of the last westward point of these ditches is the presumed site of two lost long barrows, joined together at one end. There may, therefore, have been an original connection between Cursus C and these long barrows.”

First faint photo of Cursus C
First faint photo of Cursus C

His final remark is quite a good one! And since Dymond’s initial description (according to the PastScape lads anyhow), Cursus C has been found to be much longer than the initial 1000 yards, growing another 500 yards at least!  The final point or ‘terminal’ on the eastern end still remains hidden, as it was intruded upon by the later Argham Dyke and the trees.  The start or western terminal also remains unfound, so we don’t know for sure the exact length of this giant neolithic ‘line on the landscape’, as Pennick and Devereux (1989) call them.

References:

  1. Dymond, D.P., “Ritual Monuments at Rudston, E. Yorkshire, England,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 32, 1966.
  2. Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  3. Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
  4. Manby, T.G., “The Neolithic in Eastern Yorkshire,” in Archaeology in Eastern Yorkshire, University of Sheffield 1988.
  5. Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  6. Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Rudston 'C' Cursus

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Rudston \'C\' Cursus 54.096982, -0.324293 Rudston \'C\' Cursus