As the name implies, a “stone circle” is round and made of stones. The UK is full of them and more are being discovered regularly. Who has time to check them out for authenticity when people are already setting up ticket booths, food trucks and souvenir stands? Fortunately for the residents of the parish of Leochel-Cushnie in Aberdeenshire in northeast Scotland (and perhaps unfortunately for the local business owners), a newly discovered stone circle initially thought by experts to an unusual example of a recumbent stone circle dating back 4500 years is actually just some rocks belonging to a farmer.
“It was therefore celebrated as being an authentic Recumbent Stone Circle by Adam Welfare of Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeology Service.”
The Aberdeenshire Council (you can identify them around town by the bags over their heads) announced in December the discovery of the stone circle on a local farm. Aberdeenshire has more recumbent stone circles (at least 99) than any other area. In fact, that’s just about half of the known recumbents – so named for the recumbent (lying down on a side) stones placed between standing monoliths and positioned to be aligned with the arc of the southern moon. The other half of these unique circles are found in far south-west of Ireland in the counties of Cork and Kerry. All are on relatively flat or slightly hilly areas away from mountains and are generally found on fertile grounds, which would indicate their placement may have part of a farming ritual.
Which brings us back to the faux circle. (Picture here.) It was found last year by the new owner of a farm (warning sign number one) and the Aberdeenshire researchers brought in to inspect were immediately amazed it hadn’t been reported before (warning sign number two). However, that didn’t stop them from touting it as another ancient circle on the local list, probably putting them ahead of the Irish in the records book.
“This ongoing analysis was cut short when a former owner of the farm contacted Mr Welfare to say they had built the stone circle in the mid-1990s.”
That was certainly nice of the former owner, who may have been jealous that the new owner was getting some notoriety (not to mention possible souvenir sales or at least charges for selfies). But what if they had not come forward? Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, has the answer:
“It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story. That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community. I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed – while not ancient it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape. These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. For this reason we include any modern replicas of ancient monuments in our records in case they are later misidentified.”
That’s right … it will stay on the list with an asterisk and there could be other fake recumbent stone circles on it that haven’t been outed yet (wait until the Irish hear about this), but it’s no big deal because it adds a little ‘color’ to the story of the circles and the area. And it’s in a “fantastic location” that would still make it a great spot for selfies.
I don’t know. Traveling all way to northeast Scotland to see a newly discovered stone circle, only to find it’s a fake, would make me want to curl up in a recumbent position.