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Ballynoe from the air

Ballynoe from the air


A friend of mine who lives in the North took these pictures of Ballynoe today.

What a strange site! The long barrow built AFTER the circle goes completely against my understanding of the usual pre-historical sequence for things megalithic. But then again my understanding of these things does tend to be quite southern England based.

I'm starting a forum thread on this, in case anyone can shed any light.

Ballynoe — Images

09.01.06ce
<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker<b>Ballynoe</b>Posted by Cursuswalker
Cursuswalker Posted by Cursuswalker
9th January 2006ce

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 2

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 2


29th September 2005

As with yesterday I arrived at the Moulin Hotel at 10am to pick up Goff and Hazel, but today we had an altogether more physically-challenging itinerary! I'll talk about Schiehallion to anyone who'll listen, so Goff and Hazel had heard plenty about this magical mountain and decided they wanted to have a go at climbing it. But not before seeing a few ground-level sights first.

We drove down into Pitlochry then north on the route of General Wade's military road to Killiecrankie where there's a standing stone known as Claverhouse's Stone. This prehistoric stone is where Claverhouse is said to have died, having retired here shot from the nearby Battle of Killiecrankie.



Continuing on, we drove under the A9 and through the picturesque village of Blair Atholl, passing the magnificent Blair Castle on our way to House of Bruar. House of Bruar is a collection of upmarket shops sitting at the edge of a wood just off the A9, and while the clothes sold their might not be to everyone's taste, there's no denying that the food on offer is a fantastic advert for Scotland's produce. As if to emphasise the quality of the food, when Goff spotted a familiar face we realised it was Camilla Parker-Bowles, who we overhead saying she "must buy some sprats for her husband"!

Continuing on the theme from yesterday, Goff umm'd and ahh'd over what culinary delights to purchase. After the difficult decisions had been made, we bought some sandwiches and took all the shopping back to the car before heading up behind the House of Bruar on foot. The Falls of Bruar are a series of spectacular waterfalls, best seen after heavy rain. We were lucky with the weather today, it was nice and dry, but yesterday's rain only served to make the falls even more impressive than usual.





High up above the House of Bruar a bridge crosses the burn, where Goff obligingly posed for the camera.





The return path comes back down the other side of the burn, and looking back up the hill gives a great view of the bridge spanning the falls.



Further down is another smaller bridge.



The walk had served well as a warm-up for Schiehallion, so back at the car we set off in that direction, stopping off briefly just outside House of Bruar to see the big lump of rock that is Clach na h-Iobairt standing stone.



Then it was back under the A9, through Calvine and down Glen Errochty to Trinafour, turning south-east for the long, straight descent to Tummel Bridge (again on the route of General Wade's military road) to cross the River Tummel before climbing back up the other side of Strathtummel to the car park for Schiehallion at Braes of Foss.

On the approach path to Schiehallion is the Braes of Foss cup-marked boulder, which today had it's numerous cups picked out beautifully by the sun.



Soon after this rock the path starts to get steeper and the breathing starts to get heavier as you climb up the eastern slope of the mountain. The summit was disappearing and appearing as the clouds moved in the wind, so I wasn't sure whether or not we'd get a view from the top, but a view is only the cherry on the top of climbing a mountain anyway. After getting on for a couple of hours' walking and several stops to catch the breath and drink in the views across Perthshire, we reached the summit, enshrouded in cloud. As we looked for some comfy rocks to have our sandwiches on, the cloud lifted and revealed to us a magnificent view back towards Loch Tummel.



Taking advantage of the break in the clouds, Goff and Hazel posed for a photo.



It wasn't long before the cloud came in again, so we moved off the summit to a slightly more sheltered spot to have our sandwiches from House of Bruar before starting the long descent back to the car, which of course was much easier than the climb up the way. By the time we reached the car the sun had started to go down, so we made a mad dash along to Kinloch Rannoch in an attempt to get a photo of the sun setting over the loch, but the clouds were obscuring it so we drove around the loch to the Macdonald Loch Rannoch resort to take a photo of Schiehallion from looking towards its iconic western end.



It was getting late by now and I had to be up early-ish for a work trip to Norway tomorrow, so we headed along Strathtummel in the dark on our way back to the Moulin Hotel, where we said our goodbyes - same again next year Goff?
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
8th January 2006ce

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 1

Mr & Mrs Goff's anniversary tour - day 1


28th September 2005

Last year Goff and Hazel stopped in Perthshire on the way back from Orkney and I gave them a tour. I must have done something right, because this year they wanted a 2 day tour!

As with last year I met them at the Moulin Hotel where they were staying at 10am, but this year I was doing the driving so that Goff and Hazel could see as much as possible. Goff had said that Hazel was keen to go back to see the Fowlis Wester cross slab, since last year by the time we got to the church it was locked and we had to make do with the replica, so our journey began with us shooting down the A9.

To make this first leg a little more interesting, I turned off at the Ballinluig junction and headed out west to Aberfeldy then south through Glen Cochill and the Sma' Glen. They'd seen these incredibly picturesque glens last year but were happy to see them again. After climbing out of the Sma' Glen we dropped down onto the main Perth to Crieff road, and turned left then left again at the New Fowlis cairn. I pointed out the standing stone on it, but we didn't stop - we had bigger stones to see!

We drove past the replica cross and parked behind the church, then walked along the track towards Thorn farm, hopping over the fence into the last field before the farm. Above us, at the top of the hill, we could see the Crofthead Farm standing stones.



But before we got to them there was the small matter of the massive Thorn cup-marked boulder.



We spent a bit of time here finding the cup-marks, looking at the view across to the Ochils and generally marvelling at how enormous this stone must once have been, before a short walk up the hill to the Crofthead Farm stones.



Then it was back down to the village and into the church so that Hazel (and Goff) could see the original cross-slab.



There's also a second cross-slab in the church, which was found built into the wall when the church was being renovated.



Our next stop was less megalithic and more retail, although in a speciality kind of way. Back in the car we headed for Crieff. I knew Goff had a sweet tooth and liked his food, so I took them to J L Gill's traditional Scottish grocers where he spent a long time selecting lots and lots of ales, then umm'd and ahh'd on the wisdom of buying cheese with no fridge. Bags clinking, we moved along the High Street to Gordon & Durward's traditional Scottish sweet shop, where Goff was like, well, a kid in a sweet shop!

Just as we got back to the car it started to rain, and by the time we got to the Famous Grouse Experience it was tipping it down. I had planned on lunch here, but the rain had seemingly only increased the number of pensioners in the distillery's restaurant so we decided to press on for St Fillans.

On the way towards Comrie we passed the Lawers standing stone but the rain was so heavy by now that we didn't stop. When we got to Comrie the rain was easing off so we headed to the edge of the village to see Dalginross stone circle.



I had thought of taking Goff and Hazel to the Roman Stone and Auchingarrich standing stone but the rain had started falling heavily again, so instead we drove to the Roman Stone, turned around then continued on for St Fillans. We had one more stop to make on the way though, again more retail than megalithic so the rain wasn't an issue.

Dalchonzie fruit farm sells delicious fresh fruit in the summer, but beyond the end of the season we were here for what they make with that fruit. They stock an amazing range of jams, sauces and pickles, all made with fresh produce from the farm, and the aroma as you walk into the shop is fantastic, smells wafting through from the kitchen behind. Once again Goff's face lit up, and it was a real struggle for him not to buy one of everything in the shop.

Just before St Fillans is the ancient Pictish stronghold of Dundurn. Again my plan was scuppered by the rain. I'd planned on taking them on the short walk to the summit, but the rain was really lashing down now, so the consensus was to just go for lunch in St Fillans.

We stopped at the Drummond Hotel for toasted sandwiches and chips, and sat looking out towards Loch Earn as the rain came past horizontally. Eventually we mustered the energy to head back out into the wind and rain, and continued driving along the edge of the loch to Lochearnhead, turning north en route for Killin where the next thing on the list would only be enhanced by the rain.

The Falls of Dochart in summer is a very picturesque place, perfect for picnics on the rocks beside the river. But in autumn, winter and spring, particularly after rain or snow, the water rages down spectacularly over these rocks and under the narrow bridge.



After spending a bit of time marvelling at the power of the water and noise it was creating, we went back to the car and drove over the bridge and up to Loch Tay. Driving along the north shore, I slowed down so they could see Machuim stone circle, but once again the rain robbed us of any inclination to stop and get out of the car. We followed the loch as far as Fearnan where we turned north towards Fortingall, passing the Bridge of Lyon standing stones and >General's Grave - again, not stopping because of the rain. I was also conscious of the time and wanted them to see Glen Lyon in the best light possible.

A few miles into the glen I stopped the car and took them down to the river. For the second time today the rain had improved a view, this times towards the Roman Bridge (which isn't actually Roman at all).



We continued on along the glen, the rain coming and going. A few miles after Invervar we rounded a corner and saw St Adamnan's Cross, a standing stone that was carved with a Christian cross on either side, supposedly by Adamnan himself.



I had wondered about maybe stopping at Bridge of Balgie post office where you can have something to drink and a slice of cake sitting out looking over the River Lyon, but in today's weather I don't think it would have been a popular decision, so we carried on driving down the glen. Glen Lyon is the longest glen in Scotland, and is also one of the most spectacular. Because it's a dead end, not many tourists go all the way to the end, so even in summer it's quiet. The narrow road twists it's way through a steep-sided valley, the landscape changing every mile to make a visual treat.

Towards the end of the glen is the Stronuich Resevoir and Loch Lyon, their waters artificially high due to hydro-electric dams. There's a footbridge across the river at the Stronuich Resevoir, which is a great place to take a photo of the river winding it's way east.



The bridge is quite rickety, so we gave Hazel a fright by jumping up and down on it!



The road ends suddenly at Loch Lyon with no space for turning. The grass on either side of the road had been turned into a quagmire by the heavy rain so the chance of getting stuck looked quite high, until Hazel very sensibly suggested opening the gate and turning in the dam's car park!

Having escaped a muddy embarrassment, we started heading back along the glen, but this time stopped just before the farm of Cashlie. Cashlie has obviously been inhabited for thousands of years - as well as the present farm there is the Cona Bhacain standing stone and a homestead. The Cona Bhacain is a strange-shaped stone looking quite like a dog's head and neck sticking out of the ground.



There are two legends attached to this stone. One is that this was the stone used by Fingal to tether his hound Bran. There are several large homesteads or circular forts in Glen Lyon which have been attributed to (in legend) Fingalian warriors living in the glen. The other is that local girls used to crawl under the protruding part of the stone as a form of contraception.

After a short dry spell, the rain swept in again so we jumped in the car and continued back along the glen. We crossed the river at Bridge of Balgie and started to climb steeply, the Allt Bail a' Mhuillin churning it's way down beside the road. When we reached Lochan na Lairige (the loch of the pass) there was no view to be had due to the heavy rain, so we carried on as the road twisted its way down to the north shore of Loch Tay. This was the second time we'd been here today, but instead of turning off at Fearnan we followed the road all the way to Kenmore at the head of the loch, where we stopped to take a photo as the sun started to set.



Just outside Kenmore is Taymouth Castle, once the seat of the Campbells but now undergoing redevelopment as a hotel.



Beside the gatehouse of Taymouth Castle are the Newhall Bridge standing stones, but with the light fading fast we settled for a look with no photos. Then it was back in the car for the drive back through Aberfeldy to the A9 and up to the Moulin Hotel where I'd leave Goff and Hazel before returning tomorrow.
BigSweetie Posted by BigSweetie
8th January 2006ce

POEM ON STONES

POEM ON STONES


STONES

Alone in the stones,
What a place to
Be,
All surrounded by
Mystic energy.
Now the connection
Switches on.
Im buzzing, my minds
expanding, then
traveling down the
spiral through
annuls of time, to my
ancestor who stood, where
now I stand.
then my family
the tribe.
I'm reaching out for
Them, and they take
My hand.
This is the key, the
Ancient power is
Contained in two
elements
In the oral tradition.
Voices speaking too
Me and you.
But now we ignore
What we don't
Understand
Memories stored,
All hidden in quartz
Glitter particles.
That glitter like stars.
This is a gift, of truth
And beauty , pure
Love for the earth
moon sun and stars.
So ill dance now
In moonlights silver
Glow, twisting through
The grey sparkling
Obelisks of the stones.
Then ill fall against the
cold hardness of rock,
naked free and utterly
just me.
In the stone circle I
Reconnected to the past.
And in connection I
Know im the future of
My ancient tribe,
A brave walking into
The sunrise given nothing
But love. nothing more
Than love
Just love
Love
And in love ill fight
The battle of life, a
Warrior walking
through time.creating
something truly wonderful.
juswin Posted by juswin
8th January 2006ce

Yule Be Disappointed

Yule Be Disappointed


I find the festive period quite an emotional experience and i sometimes find it all a little overwhelming. So what better way to clear my head than go for some long walks and try and make some sense of sites that have puzzled me for some time. In particular 2 very large and 2 very lost stone circles.

Thirteen Stones Hill — Images

03.01.06ce
<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Thirteen Stones Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Thirteen Stones Hill — Fieldnotes

03.01.06ce
Visited the remains of this circle over the festive period. unfortunately the farmers of Lancashire decided to clear this one to. A few stumps are now sadly all that remains, there is only one stone remaining in the circle standing upright.
This must have been an impressive circle

Cliviger Law — Images

03.01.06ce
<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Cliviger Law</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Cliviger Law — Fieldnotes

03.01.06ce
I cant quite figure this one out it seems to be more 'henglike' than a cairn. A curving mound intersected on both sides by a house and a road so its impossible to tell i guess.

Round Hill — Images

03.01.06ce
<b>Round Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Round Hill</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Round Hill — Fieldnotes

03.01.06ce
This site is simply marked as an earthwork on Maps. On closer inspection it looks like a small hilltop settlement and there are a few of these around Lancs. that are quite similliar. Theres also rumoured to be a carved stone close by.

Stump Cross — Images

03.01.06ce
<b>Stump Cross</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Stump Cross</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Stump Cross — Fieldnotes

03.01.06ce
This stone seems far to close to Moseley Height i would think its an outlier to the great Circle that once stood in the field behind it.

Mosley Height — Images

03.01.06ce
<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk<b>Mosley Height</b>Posted by treehugger-uk

Mosley Height — Fieldnotes

04.01.06ce
Its very easy to make out the location of where this circle once stood theres faint traces of circular embankments at the top of the small hill in the field behind Stump Cross .
If i were in any other county i'd find it hard to beleive that someone would have the mentality to do such a thing as clear this circle.
A complete tragedy as all that remain are a few stumps and a pile of boulders by the field wall some of the stones are huge this circle was rather large.
It was only excavated and complete in the 1950's but for some reason was never scheduled.
treehugger-uk Posted by treehugger-uk
4th January 2006ce

Xmas wanderings

Xmas wanderings


Another year, another few days with the family in Dorset. I've been somewhat neglectful of wandering of late, partly brainstate, partly beer, partly HA. In particular I seem to have abandoned new sites in favour of the path well trod, revisiting my faves again and again, partly because I love em and partly to make sure they get the tlc they deserve. However, I think I'm coming out the other side and decided to celebrate this (and a new OS map) by visiting 3 hill forts I'd not seen before.

Hod Hill — Fieldnotes

30.12.05ce
[visited 27/12/05] I've been pondering on visiting this place for years, finally getting off my arse to see this and hambledon in the same day. So, firstly, this place is huge. I'm not surprised the Romans went to the additional hassle of cornering off part of this massive fort for their pad, the iron age ramparts would have required many hundreds to defend properly. Walking the ramparts in December is a chilly affair but the views either side of Hambledon are awesome, looking out down the side of Cranbourne Chase and onto the vast plain in front of you.

Access is for the reasonably fit, the car park is at the bottom of the hill then its up a steep slope to the fort.

Hambledon — Fieldnotes

30.12.05ce
[visited 27/12/05] After 20 mins eating my lunch and warming up in the car after a visit to Hod Hill, I set off for Hambledon Hill. A neolithic enclosure, long barrow AND a hill fort? Its enough to make a megarak go weak at the knees. I parked at the carpark between hambledon and hod, which meant the view to the North was saved till last, delaying gratification is always for the best I find.

So I came to the long barrow marked on the OS map and the neolithic enclosure first, the barrow is denuded but still obvious to an observant seeker. As is the enclosure, split with a fence but still followable as a line of bumps in the grass. I'm surprised the enclosure isn't further forward tbh, there is a lot of hill to the North untouched. Eager for the view I hurried on, down and then back up to the fort entrance and onto a melange of weird banks. I think I picked out the fort from the medieval lynchets, but with a Maes Knollesque cross bank, I'm not convinced the fort itself went right to the end of the hill.

And what is with the large long barrow shaped top of the hill, just to the north of the cross bank? What possible defensive function did this fulfill? Is this related to the strip lynchets? Reading the notes here on TMA, this is actually a barrow? Did the farmers fill in the defenses at the North end of the hill?

Confusedly I struggled against the biting wind to the View. And what a View. I couldn't stand and stare for long as I wanted to leave the hill without losing bits of my face due to frostbite, but on a clear day you must be able to 20miles from up here. I'm coming back in the summer, because this is one of the best views for miles about and I love my Views.

Access is a mile or so from the carpark, up a fairly steep slope and through a few gates.

After those, I had a couple of visits to old faithfuls, Nine Stones and Rempstone. More pathetic chalk swastikas at Nine Stones dampened my mood, as did a No Entry sign newly errected at Rempstone, but I pushed through with the help of scrumpy and on my way back to Bath decided to pop in to the giant breast I keep driving past.

Cley Hill — Fieldnotes

30.12.05ce
[visited 28/12/05] I almost crashed first time I drove past this on the way to Dorset, not only are the ramparts immense but there was a gert huge nipple on top of a giant breast, just to the right of my vision. Cut to 1 1/2 years later, I finally had the Warminister map and went "Oh thats Cley Hill". This is a popular place and I was fortunate to get a parking space as I headed up here for sunset.

The defenses are steep, in fact the whole hill is steep, I imagine they had all sorts of fun trying to get the carts with provisions in up to the top here. Now perhaps my brain just sees breasts, but the barrow is large and very carefully placed... As a whole the hill is still in great condition and sees a lot of use, not surprising given how prominent it must be from Warminster.

Access is up a steep hill and through a gate from the car park.
juamei Posted by juamei
30th December 2005ce
Edited 19th January 2006ce

Gower power

Gower power


The Gower is a rather beautiful sandy, limestoney peninsula sticking out westwards from South Wales right on Swansea's doorstep.

We were very lucky with the weather. It was incredibly cold, but there was no breeze at all, the sky was cloudless and blue and the sun's weak rays poured out lemon light. There are some really rather lovely sites down here and lots of variety, too. We easily did this lot on a short winter's day!

Parc Le Breos — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
This is a well tended and large restored Severn-Cotswold type cairn. We got there early and the light was streaming through the frosty trees. The cairn has a central passage with two pairs of transepted chambers. The cairn is now roofless so the internal structures are all exposed. It was fabulous just lying there surrounded by woodland in a bright yellow crisp winter valley. We loved it.

You can park very close by and the approach to it is flat so it'd be great for those using wheelchairs or buggies to visit.

Parc Le Breos — Images

29.12.05ce
<b>Parc Le Breos</b>Posted by Jane<b>Parc Le Breos</b>Posted by Jane

Cat Hole Cave — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Just 200ms away from Parc le Breos hidden in the wooded cliffs on the right as you approach is this lovely cave which is certainly worth a shufti. It has two entrances, one closed up with railings. The larger entrance, of a tall triangular shape, leads to a huge interior. It goes back a long way into the rock and has a number of chambers within it. I was thrilled and delighted at how cosy and warm it was at the back of the cave away from the frosty winter morning. When it was excavated in the 1960s very ancient human remains were found.

Cat Hole Cave — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane<b>Cat Hole Cave</b>Posted by Jane

Penmaen — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Lurking in the dunes on a promontory close to Penmaen village is a small burial chamber.

We parked at SS527885 by the bus stop and post box and walk down the path marked 'Tor Bay 0.8kms'.

Once on the promontory be prepared for a stomp about! We scoured the hillside on the left of the path where the dunes dip down sharply to the dramatic beach below. It wasn't there. We searched the tip of the promontory, but no cigar. Finally as we were about to give up, I spotted it 20 metres from the end of main path as it breaks up into many tracks through the dunes, on the right of the 'mainest' path.

It has a good sized solid capstone, now fallen on one side, and a few stones making up a short passageway. Surrounded by dead bracken, half buried in a dune, it's not a burial chamber to write home about, but I loved it anyway. The views down to Threecliff Bay are breathtaking!

Up here on top of the dunes reminded me of Porth Hellick Downs on Scilly's St Mary's.

Penmaen — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Penmaen</b>Posted by Jane<b>Penmaen</b>Posted by Jane

Maen Ceti — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
The site is found up on high open moorland with amazing views back over to Llanelli to the north. The moor was crawling with shaggy frozen ponies. As you approach it you can see it's big but then - woooo!!! This is so much bigger and more impressive than I had ever imagined up close. The capstone is less of a cap and more of a mighty concrete helmet – perhaps weighing 40 or 50 tons (I kid you not!) - supported by really small uprights which look as if they have been driven into the earth under the vast weight of the elephantine lump above. The whole construction sits in a concave rubble cairn, so it's easy to imagine the original size of this place.

As we drove around, we kept getting sights of the monument perched up there on that chilly heath from miles away.

Maen Ceti — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Maen Ceti</b>Posted by Jane

Cefn Bryn Great Cairn — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Cefn Bryn Great Cairn is just 25ms away from Maen Cetty and is little more than a huge mound of large stones. But it all adds to the atmosphere up there on that amazing ridge of moorland with those staggering views.

Cefn Bryn Great Cairn — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Cefn Bryn Great Cairn</b>Posted by Jane

Samson's Jack — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Sampson's Jack is a pointy menhir of white stone which soars out of its hedgerow setting! It is the texture and colour of rice pudding. What a shame you can't see the whole stone – it must be 12 feet tall, but the bottom six feet are hidden in the hawthorn. Without modern buildings it is only maybe 300 metres away from the standing stone at Ty'r Coed farm and certainly on a sight line.

Note for pedants: On the map, the spelling of Sampson has a 'p' in it.

Samson's Jack — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Samson's Jack</b>Posted by Jane

Ty'r-coed — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Park at the top of the lane by the farm entrance and ask at the farm to see it, because this is on private land.

The farm building is only inches away from this menhir which is made of the same rice pudding stone of Sampson's Jack. Because it stands in a rise of land its size is deceptive. It must be at least seven feet tall. From here you get a very clear view of Maen Cetty on the ridge to the south about a mile and half away.

The stone is kept in a small enclosure with three dogs so mind where you tread - it's very shitty!

Ty'r-coed — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Ty'r-coed</b>Posted by Jane

We drove along to Llanrhidian village where a number of standing stones were marked on the map. We had a look for the one at Oldwall at SS484919, but it wasn't there. Perhaps it has been removed?

We drove into the village of Llanrhidian.

Llanrhidian — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Two menhirs stand guarding each side of the path up to the tiny old church.

The stones are curious. The 'lower' one is undoubtedly ancient. The size, weathering patterns and position all felt genuine. The 'upper' one was highly suspicious. It looked as if it were a more recent stone – which for sure had once been used as a gatepost – which had been plonked on top of a larger stone. The larger stone now lies down on the slope, but the size, type and weathering all matched the standing stone still up.

I wondered if they had once been part of an alignment as they followed the dip in the road which looked as if it had once been an old trackway down to the marsh just half a mile or so to the north

Llanrhidian — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Llanrhidian</b>Posted by Jane
At the far western end of the Gower peninsula is the most lovely beach – four miles long backed by extensive hummocky dunes. Rising sharply to 185 feet above sea level immediately behind this is Rhossili Down, a great dramatic hill facing directly west. Right on the top of this are some cairns, burnt mounds and the Sweyne Howes chambered tombs.

I can't resist a chambered tomb, so I foolishly persuaded myself that shuffling up the near vertical (OK, I'm exaggerating, but it was really steep) hillside would be worth it. Grumbling with displeasure, I made it to the very top, but when I couldn't immediately see the tombs I turned back, knowing it would take me a long time and a great deal of pain in my knees to get off this particular Everest. The view from the top was lovely, but certainly not worth pain.

Rhossili Down — Images

30.12.05ce
<b>Rhossili Down</b>Posted by Jane
Moth made it up to the tombs and took lots of lovely photos for me to see later. I returned to the beach to sit in the dunes and watch the crazy surfers – one of who I observed scraping ice from his board before waxing it down. Nutter! I hope he had a thermal vest on underneath his drysuit!

The Gower really is very beautiful. For megalithomaniacs needing to take a holiday with their family, I can highly recommend it. Amazing beaches, lovely walks (I imagine, for those who like walking), delightful hostries, views, surfing, horseriding, pottering about and for the stone-huggers lots of different kinds of monument to seek out.
Jane Posted by Jane
30th December 2005ce

South Wales Getaway

South Wales Getaway


Perhaps if I was a drinker, a Christian, a capitalist or not a woman I might like Christmas. But I'm not, so I like to flee it if possible. This year Moth and I escaped immediately after the 'festivities' were over to visit friends in South Wales who also don't like Christmas. I wanted in particular to visit the Gower peninsula. But we thought we'd have a look at some stuff en route to the kingdom of Swansea.

Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
What a strange place! In a wonderful position on common land near Pontypridd hospital are some natural rocky outcrops, one of which is known as the Pontypridd rocking stone. It is very large – about 5 and half feet tall and round, roughly in two pieces like a cottage loaf. I gave it a push. It doesn't rock. In recent times a very nice small stone circle has been built round it. The whole place seems rather peculiar though.

Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone — Images

29.12.05ce
<b>Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone</b>Posted by Jane
Around Crickhowell
From Pontypridd we drove up into the valleys, singing 'Bread of Heaven' as we went, towards Crickhowell. Around Crickhowell there are quite a number of sites worth seeing, though I would argue none of them are A-list Hollywood sites, (although Moth thinks the Fish stone is.)

The Growing Stone — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
The growing stone is a very tall, slender menhir, standing sentinel by the roadside about 12 feet high and provides a certain surprising quirkiness at the entrance of a military training establishment. It didn't need medals or stripes or pips to give it authority.

The Growing Stone — Images

29.12.05ce
<b>The Growing Stone</b>Posted by Jane

Llangenny — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
In the village of Llangenny, very close to Crickhowell two standing stones are marked on the map. One stands very small and looking rather forlorn and alone at the bottom of the valley. It's nice though, and I'd like it in my orchard!

Llangenny is a small picturesque village, tumbling down a steep hillside so we drove through in an attempt to find the second stone on the map at SO237188. In thick impenetrable woodland, overgrown with brambles and dry bracken we didn't stand a cat in hell's chance of finding it, so we moved on.

Garn Goch — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
Out on the other side of Crickhowell on the edge of a village recreation ground is Carn Coch burial chamber. There's not much left to see here, but I liked it. A grassy mound with a bit of rubble poking through here and there and a single flat capstone is all that remains. It's been disturbed a bit too, as its outline is not smooth or distinct.

It has as tremendous view of the very unusually shaped Sugar Loaf hill on the other side of the valley.

Garn Goch — Images

29.12.05ce
<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane<b>Garn Goch</b>Posted by Jane
Half a mile out of Crickhowell right by the busy A40 is all that remains of Gwernvale burial chamber.

Gwernvale — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
It is scarily close to the road! It now signals the entrance to a posh hotel. The stones, all about 2 feet tall and 2 feet across, clearly mark out a main chamber and entrance passageway, but the rest of the tomb is long gone. No mound, no rubble, no nothing. The only thing to indicate the tomb's original size and scale is a number of marker stones. Once, it might have been as big and impressive as Belas Knap or Stoney Littleton. My guess is that much of the cairn material was used to build and repair the road.

Gwernvale — Images

29.12.05ce
<b>Gwernvale</b>Posted by Jane

The Fish Stone — Fieldnotes

29.12.05ce
A short walk through the woods following the line of the river Usk brings you to the Fish stone... in theory! Actually the path through woods is 30 feet up a steep slope and the stone stands in the grassy inaccessible valley below. Being a confident walker, Moth decided to head off down the slope and seek it out, trespassing merrily. I didn't! I could see the stone tantalisingly close below, but there was no way I was going to be able to reach it. It's crackingly tall – perhaps 18 feet or more and intriguingly fish shaped, with distinct fins projecting from its narrowest sides.
We continued on to Swansea where we met up with our Christmas-hating friends.
Jane Posted by Jane
30th December 2005ce

The Perfect Remedy From Xmas Shopping

The Perfect Remedy From Xmas Shopping


Having taken the day off work to ensure I don't lose my annual leave entitlement, I made the BIG msitake of doing some Xmas shoping. Having endured 2 hours of hell in a small Leicestershire market town (honestly, it's all I could take), I needed some mental refreshment and made my way to the somewhat limited stuff we have down these parts.

First stop was Peter's Pence Stone in Great Bowden. When I used to go to school round these parts I used to pass this place twice a day, but being a spotty and non-megalithic minded soul I wouldn't have seen the stone for the trees. Today's visit was not a "pleasant experience", as when I got there a huge truck was parked off the road next to it (so much for ambience). The Neanderthal driver (sorry to any Neanderthal's reading this) was using the stone as some sort of iron-horse mounting block! I asked him, ever so politely in my middle-english sort of way, not to stand on the stone, to which I received a double barrelled four letter deluge of megalithic proportions!!!

With my ears still ringing, I decided to head towards home and pass the two mysterious mounds that lie dormant in the rolling countryside.

Arriving at The Gumley Mound, I realised that I had been hasty and hadn't really thought out my visit properly. You'd think having been a Scout in the past that I would "Be Prepared", but hey, I had been Christmas shopping and had not thought that I would need to put my boots in the car!

The Mound itself lies off the main road on slight ridge as you head south from the village. There is a footpath to it, but it was too muddy for my "smart casual" attire. Content with a view from afar ruminated a while as to whether Offa, Arthur or persons unknown lie under the mound. A man came to my front door wome months ago selling his bbokelt about King Arthur being from round these parts - didn't quite buy it myself, but I know that Offa has been out this way.

Feeling a little more chilled, I headed south to The Munt in Kibworth. Leaning on the fence next to the mound, trying to drown out the traffic from the nearby A6, I could smell garlic from the Italian restaraunt opposite. I'm not sure that was here when the Jarrow Marchers camped here overnight on their way to London, but local tales tell that this was a Roman farmers grave (place in a much older barrow), so I gusess some things don't change that much! King Kibba (who?) is said to be buried here also (getting crowded in there), but like Gumley this was used by the Normans as a Motte castle in the 1200s.

So, that was my redemption today - just wish I lived near some proper stones!
Posted by fleckers
8th December 2005ce

3) CAIRNTON TO SCORRA DALE

3) CAIRNTON TO SCORRA DALE


Back up on the road as you leave Orphir village behind there is a house called Cairnton on the left that doesn't appear on the 1882 map, though as with other places that does not mean the placename itself did not exist then. Good construction, decent grounds, surrounded by several ages of wall. My interest is piqued by the high western wall, that facing Scorradale. There is a stone hut inside the grounds with its back wall there. Strange thing is that the wall surrounding the grounds incorporates this but the hut wall is its own thing and so must have come before. House>hut>wall or hut>house is the sticking point in my interpretation despite that all fits so neatly now. As I am typing this up I am of a sudden reminded of the hut in the Tankerness House Garden's wall in Tankerness Lane, lately demolished.

By the LH side of the Scorradale junction is the enclosed steep-ended gar that looks to have been the ornament of a big hoose before it became overgrown. Going up the hill at the lower side of the way in a short erect stone ends flush a remaining section of drystane wall. And at right-angles a matter of inches away is a less rounded stone of similar dimensions sitting solitary. Apparently.
At the top of the hill is a popular viewpoint, with rough paths meandering aimlessly nowadays either side of the roadway. Going over the brow my attention has often been taken by a mound with garden plants sitting off the road in a hollow, like the remains of a dwelling on its own tump. This time I climbed of the roadway, after some yards up over a definite bank carefully into the depression. Alas after crawling over the man-height mound there were still no distinguishing features, so this would appear to be connected with the 1:25,000's disused quarry hereabouts, presumably its dump.
Furtherdown the hillside is an earthwork (HY316056) between Crumbrecks and the Scorradale road that looks more promising. Big lowish mound not far from the road ,with banks surrounding a large rectangular-looking interior, several bumps and some stone exposed. Can't find an easy way in. Back home this appears to be of 'modern' origin, another quarry shown on the 1882 map. Sigh.

Next up is the electricity sub-station junction. Pausing to look at the bridge next to it on the downhill side at the streamside edge of the field (HY31540580) I saw one rainy day a very exposed 'straining stone', flat edge aligned with the bank and feet practically dabbling in the water. The area of the stone visible from the road is 1.6m by 0.35-0.4m, with half-a-metre of this being below field level. There is a piece of packing the full width of the field side of it. Taking into account the concrete and wire about it it is difficult to understand how the stone stays vertical rather than being dragged fieldward, unless there be much lower packing hidden on the ditch side, taking its height down to the ditch bottom to 1.95m. It doesn't form the end of a drystane wall even though there is perhaps one overgrown under the roadside field boundary. I can see no markings present.
I saw a fallen brown stone that could mean this is the remains of a 'standing stone fence'.
The other presently standing stone (HY31510589) is near to the Glenrae farmroad junction. It is smaller than the other at 0.9m x 0.3m but resembles it in the only apparent packing slab being on the fieldward side. It is a possible candidate for the Giant's Thumb despite being down in Scorra Dale rather than actually up on Gruf/Ruff Hill. On the downhill side there is a notable concavity along the edge, as well as a few lesser curves on the uphill side, the latter ?natural flaking. When I fell back the right distance and held up my hand so that my thumb was placed appropriately the palm base of my fingers fell naturally at the other edge.
On the 1:25,000 there are two hills above Glenrae, namely Croy Hill then Gruf Hill. It is Johnston's calling the latter Ruff Hill that gives me room to think the Giant's Thumb did not lay where his map shows it. From the Scorradale road I cannot tell which of these hills is on the horizon. This hillside is strewn with small boulders that probably relate scorra to scouring. On my last visit there were large white blotches visible way up near the ridge. My thoughts ran to giant sheep or an unusual breed of kie. Zooming in showd the to be instead much larger boulders sticking out the hillside. The map shows some kind of track going along the SE side of the hills, but it looks like a bit much of a yomp even so. If only I had a better fix on the giant's stone (a failed throw at Hoy from Rousay), presuming my identification only simulacrum, it would surely lie here as lure in lieu.

Coming back down into Orphir main there is a magnificent vista spread out before you, with Kongarsknowe highly visible. I could see that as I neared the junction the hills over the Flow would frame it - walking the road below the Hill of Midland the top of it is often on a level with the hilltops across the water. Strangely, soon after you leave the hill base the knowe disappears from view - you can't see the mound from anywhere near Orphir village, only from some some places well down the road to Gyre does the mound show itself again. Imagine my amazement on finding that from the Scorradale junction itself there is the effect of it being part of a meniscus, the illusion being that Kongarsknowe is in a declivity whilst the top of the mound is dead level with the top of the hills across the water. Like the depiction of the eye as an eyeball within a lens. I'm not sure if this is a deliberate placement and my one photo failed to do it justice as perceived.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce

2) ORPHIR VILLAGE TO HARPROO

2) ORPHIR VILLAGE TO HARPROO


Approaching Orphir village there is a fine old church on the left, with excellent seats and calm garden for the partaking of your piece (sarnies etc.) behind. This is the junction that leads to Gyre and the Viking Heritage Centre whotsit. Below the church building work has started, no' even foundations yet. They've dug big holes alongside the road for services. Here large flags have been exposed that I would love to be something but obviously is not (then, farmers now when they stick in grant-funded fences seem to knock pieces out of the old walls and occasionally even uproot them completely, and yet in Orkney we are lucky enough to have some drystane walls going back to the Neolithic - now we are losing all our history). Along the road I saw one of my favourite archaeologists and, I thought, a couple with an interest in the Vikings. Which seemed to confirm the game was afoot. Still time to see what so I left the Bu till later.
As you go down the old King's Highroad towards Gyre you can see Konger's Knowe on the left a couple of field's away from the road, so I decided to essay that first. Unfortunately the old field dyke boundary is a formidable obstacle still, broad and deep and mired in vegetation, so I had to content myself with standing on top of the almost buried wall this side of the dyke. On trying to find a way further down I thought I was in luck when I saw two tall stones across the dyke, but though I thought there were other materials there I could not see through the plants. Only after I came back did I realise that this was the old gate in the boundary referred to by Johnston (HY34440489). I had not expected an actual physical entity surviving to now. Think of a farm gate using middling standing stones for posts only with a width nearer to that of a domestic garden gate - the stones stand 1.1m spaced 1.3m apart, whilst in Orkney farmgateposts are either 2.4m or in the region of 3.6-4m. There's an outside chance that Johnston was wrong and grind could mean 'green field', however this would make for a massive coincidences. All the gaps in the old Evie hill-dyke were called slaps but that is way over in East Mainland and a matter of culture and/or a different kind of feature.

So I struck back across the line that connects to the bit of road that goes over Gyre. This line is an old track and submerged ?fieldwalls, perhaps a bank too.
Above the stackyard of Gyre is the findspot (HY340047) at "the crown of the breck" for what A.W. Johnston called 'chambered cinerary urns', a term which Anne Brundle of the Orkney Museum thinks was used at the time to describe cists with divisions. I expected nothing, the modern road cutting through the farmtracks that were. So I was surprised to find that this section, the piece of road between the stackyard and the drystane fieldwall, had not been taken for fields. Amazingly it is still unenclosed, occupying an area several metres in either direction that lies between the section of road above the stackyard and the field boundary walls. There are a few stones connected but these appear to be the top of a mostly buried wall. So at least for know the site is preserved for the future. There is what seems to be a spoil heap, stones buried in and on the earth. Strange the way the modern materials are by the roadside end as once you climb up on it older stuff becomes apparent. Doubtful this comes from the original excavations even so ?
It can be no coincidence that in 1972 a double cist HY30SW 12 was found by the stackyard the other side of the road (HY34090464). This held four skulls in the SE compartment and another in the NW ! Seeing the distance between here and the stackyard in person I see no reason why this could not be a small cemetery like Queenafiold. But presuming Anne's memory is certain why so many of this specific type ?? On my last visit I thought I finally had the cist's location pegged, the relevant side of said stackyard being the smaller side road that has cottages along it. I went up and down carefully, to no avail. Then I chanced to look under a small 'recent' concrete ?watertower in a tiny 'field' and saw some kind of hole. Here there are a few small modern blocks. Also several thin slabs lying about the shallow grassed up depression. Couldn't really make out anything clear, not even anything I could really photograph for reference. Looked possible surely. Unfortunately upon looking up the record card I saw the tractor driver had dug the find from a bank, no mention of tower construction. So I am still flapping. If it ain't this it could still be from one of the 'chambered cinerary urns' perhaps.

Now I chose a better route for my re-discovered tumulus: going back up the road I entered the quarry field (used for building the slab fences hereabouts in the early to mid-19th century) and went diagonally. At the opposite corner (whose 'Orkney gate' is thankfully down) there is an ornamental gatepost of impressive size that led once to a since-vanished dwelling (as did others of the type uphill from Gyre). I call it a phase 1 type, which is conical and of drystone construction. Phase 2 is constructed the same but cuboid. Phase 3 the construction changes to stone blocks. Then they become smaller or are made of modern materials, no thoughts on which concept comes first. Could be totally wrong of course !
From there I at last walked across into the Kongarsknowe field. There is a large circular pool of water by the lower half of the turf-covered mound, probably in a natural depression. What was most necessary was to find out the knowe's composition. Even from afar I had seen exposed bits. Looked like the usual earth with a few small stones. Only up real close did this reveal itself to be mostly ?decayed rock, probably sandstone. Though there appeared to be no signs of structure I cannot believe this to be a (wholly) natural mound. Unable to tell its shape and there was too much wind for the tape measure. It paced out to about 70m around the steeper, unploughed, main bit. From here the mound slopes more gradually until it peters out somewhat over 90m circumference. The central portion (? rocky core) is well over two meters high (possibly three) and the 'base' another metre below that. On my second visit I took measure of the site. It covers an area 35~37m in diameter but the 'core' is not circular, being 29m long and 17½m across the upper mound. The pond behind it is 35m maximum diameter, making the depression the same size as the knowe. Which is surely significant of something.
Johnston marks its first appearance on paper to 1797. Then likely about the time the slab fences were being built by Fortescue of Swanbister (as reported in "The Farmers Journal" of February 1877) according to "Old Lore Miscellany..." he wished to investigate the Fairy-brae of Congesquoy" but was warned by James Flett in Lerquoy not to dig this "old landmark". Marwick in his book on field-names says that the Congesquoy near the Bu of Cairston probably indicated a quoy acquired by an earl. Here the Upper and Lower Congesquoy appear late and IIRC are within the commonalty. However Johnston's 1820 map shows Congasquoy (sic) to the other side of the dividing line, and Kongar instead means ' king's farm ' (as in Consgar).

Going down the hill there is Gear Field to the left whose previously seperate roadside half was called at various times in the past Norquoy and Church Field. In the lower quadrant (HY338045) foundations, stone implements, bones & ashes have been found. Johnston's map has a Maseygate 'church road' from the Bu farm area ending at the lower wall where the Bu boundary is.
The Viking interpretation centre is open most of the time and comes in useful for ablutions and such, I know of nowhere else in Orphir for the distraught walker to gain relief. A good place to visit besides. No sign in the region of any vehicles or archaeological bodies when I went there. I took the Breck footpath from the Round Church and by the shore there was a rectangle impression in the pebble beach against the shore that was certainly the result of digging. But with no-one and nothing around I assume nothing remotely official - my big ears had led me astray.
Looking to west I could see across a gap in the low cliff a group of fair-sized erect stones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I rushed right across the shallowest bit of the Bu burn in order to reach the site. The name that I have for this area is Harproo. This is a stream-name, and so it is no surprise that a shallow stream proceedsover the present farmtrack down to the beach from the Bu road (it is simpler to come down the farmtrack). This was an old hill dyke seemingly similar in dimensions to that close by Kongarsknowe, being just over a metre deep and approximately 6m across where it meets the shore. My impression is that the W margin of the track is more like the original ?prehistoric bank would have been, but I have not yet walked the track. On the cliff-top either side the drystane shore wall is terminated in lichen-covered stones on the order of a metre high. Fairly standard. But sitting on the base of the 'trench' is a stone of a very different character (HY33190413). It stands a head higher than any other stones in Orphir. It differs from the other stones in being completely devoid of lichen and having the colouration typical of stones that have been in the vicinity of a farmyard all the time. I am firmly of the opinion that this is HY30SW 11, the Bu of Orphir standing stone, transplanted. With the other stones it has several 'loose' modern gates roped across. This stone is 1.9m high and 0.2m thick, is 0.6m across the base (which appears to be stone-packed) tapering to 0.3m at the top. At the Bu road end of the track is a similar arrangement of two stones aligned plus a third slightly away. It is my guess that the farm stone could have been a replacement for one swept out to sea.
RCAHMS NMRS no. HY30SW 16 at HY332042 is by the same field border of the Bu boundary. In the 1980's N/S aligned rectangular foundations with cross-wall were found near the shoreline. An alternative name for the site is the Kirkyard, being traditionally a chapel and graveyard. The area is being eroded where it meets high tide and - though I was ignorant of it at the time my photos reveal in the cliff close to the E terminal stone several stones about half a metre below the cliff-top in an area about a metre across and ?under half deep. Johnston reports bones and large stones coming from here. Unless it be multi-period I am not entirely convinced of its attribution, Harproo means 'stream of the heap' and the suposed chapel site over near the Hillock of Breakna broch is the also ambiguously named Cairns of Piggar. On the other hand the foundations could always be unconnected with the other remains.
My ignorance of the tides stopped me going further around to the Head of Banks. Here Johnston shows Corn Goes (i.e. geo), the Courting Hole, and Black Goe. Near the first of these three he notes (HY332039) two small stones near the cliff edge as gravestones and the former presence of two more stones held to be for gallow sockets. It strikes me that one or both of these sites could (have) been the remains of a settlement similar to the Covenanters Graves in Tankerness. Further around the headland an earthwork appears on his map. This appears near the legend Tooacks of Oddi but doesn't definitely name it. Tuacks may be natural knolls on the side of hills or artificial mounds, sometimes called towers. All this headland for 2006 to investigate.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce

1) WHITE MOSS TO NEARHOUSE, ORPHIR

1) WHITE MOSS TO NEARHOUSE, ORPHIR


Researching in the Orkney Room I chanced to overhear staff taliking about something going on at the Earl's Bu in Orphir so had to go and see what. This turned into the first of 3 more trips to the parish. This blog is a product of all three arranged into geographical chunks



In James Omond once he has left the Mill of Kirbister he talks of the main Orphir road passing through a region of "fairies, ghosts, and goblins" called White Moss. Which makes me think of Markstone Moss elsewhere and wonder if the site of that name is misplaced rather than gone, people having a habit of confusing an area named with the usually far smaller area where the legend resides on the map (or alternately with tiny sites looking on the wrong end of the legend !). How wonderfully the walking mind wanders.
After you pass the Germiston road junction there is a permanent pool of water roadside occupying a rectangular hole. The 1882 map shows nothing there and you can see no rock to make it a quarry. Its presence unremarked annoys me - is it something missed off the earliest map or where a WW2.building had been ? The negative impression of some construction set deeply into the ground being wholly removed certainly. Just along from this I see for the first time the obscure evidence for a circular earthwork. On several previous visits I have looked for James Omond's "old circular building... almost level with the ground" where Johnston's map places it. Finally I realize that this is wrong, for it places both that and the Graystane between the main and mill roads whereas "The Book of Orphir" places them securely either side of the main road. And so this must surely be Cursiter's possible hillfort after all. From it came many curious stones, chief among which was the muller for a saddle quern [the moving top stone]. This had at its back several grooves to fit the fingers in and must have looked mighty fine.

Before reaching the Swanbister junction there is a gate allowing access to the Greystane field. It is slightly rusty and secured with a rope, so be extra careful climbing over. The stone is very carefully shaped. In fact someone has said this can't be a standing stone because it has straight lines and nice angles (recently a real archaeologist at a public event said you can tell proper standing stones because they are larger than 'straining posts'. Which would rule out a significant proportion of the officially recognised ones !). If this had been an erratic someone would have had to erect it, it didn't get this way by itself. The shoulder has obviously been created in fairly modern times, archaeologically speaking. Perhaps when the modern main road was created (the track of the mill road being the obvious original way) it was desired to split it up for carting away but proved too hard. Another possibility is that someone thought to create two slighter posts out of it for use elsewhere and was similarly balked. Certainly this would produce the fat square-section stone fenceposts seen elsewhere in Orkney - there seems to have been a fashion for them at one time, and I can see no antiquity in these.

Next I went back and passed the ruin of Sweanabow (not named for another Bu district as bow here is used for agricultural land held in common or possibly a cattle parc). As I made for the corner E corner of the field there was an area (east of the building and nearer the burn) of damp spongy ground that I take to be what is left of the well shown on the 1882 map at HY35810628 : the one on the modern map further up at HY35720636 does not appear on that - actually I must confess I initially identified a short rectangular cutout along the edge of the bank lower down as this well. Continuing I struck across to the burn that runs down from the road and followed up the west bank. By the corner is a triple watercourse junction and one tall stone in one of the fences there. Coming up I came firstly to a depression alongside the stream, roughly rectangular and seeming man-made, which I tentatively identified with a well as noted above. Next I came to where the larger of two broad flat bridges cross the channel. Leading up to it is what remains of a wallbank of fairly large stone blocks lining the east bank and a few stones my side. It stands two or so feet high and over the original a big slab of concrete has been placed to enable tractors to cross, but underneath the traffic has caused the blocks to start falling apart. After this comes the point at which the burn turns slightly and there are two fencepost-sized stones in a short angled stretch in the barbwire fence by the east bank. The northern one looks to stand alone but
that to the south has plenty of packing with a couple of feet of ? submerged fieldwall projecting downhill a little lower than that. Looking across at the two I saw two small horizontal rocks by a cut. My thought was that this was a feeder channel. Later when I went to the other side, however, I saw it to be a closed off depression a foot or more deep with at least two slabs inside, a thin one presently upright. I think this narrow almost slot has to be what is down as a well on the modern O.S. Nearer the road is the second bridge, simply one large thin stone slab fairly low over the water. Above this are two modern erect stones on either side of the burn, which continues under the road through an unremarkable 'modern' channel.
Then I walked along the uphill boundary and across the shallow hump that is the glacial till opposite Highbreck. Facing Highbreck the steatite cremation urn came from the continuation of this that the house sits on, from somewhere on the left. Next feature along is another channel under the road, with an erect stone on its left. It is multi-period. There is the original drystane tunnel with a couple of erect slabs in front like the low 'passage' before the Hillhead of Scapa well (only without the back wall of course). Then
coming from the two slabs are concrete sides and end over which a big rusty iron pipe runs. There is another such pipe in front of the channel entrance which ends clean cut a few inches from the erect stone. Now I headed to the muddy way through to the next field, gated by two erect stones in slightly different alignments. The southern one is at a major field junction and perhaps these downhill areas are of a field system before what are called the 'improvements' of the latter half of the second millenium. Lastly I went across to the Smoogro road junction. Here there are three erect stones on the west side. The main road and side road ones are rounded and have lichen like the rest in these fields. The middle one is obviously a (comparatively) recent addition; slightly darker, all straight edges (tho' still tapering), and devoid of a certain naturalness.
Could go no further, so retraced my steps. At the Swanbister junction there are the dwellings of Nearhouse, apparently absent (there are a few dots in the track complex) in their entirety from the 1882 map like Highbreck. An uncultivated triangle of land roadside here once turned up a cist. There now is a small jumble of ?stone/slabs that could be taken for this but surely would have been noted if 'twere and so must be a mere simulacra. I'd love to enter this peedie patch of land for a closer look simply on the off chance, but it gives off unmade garden vibes vis-à-vis the cottage close by.
wideford Posted by wideford
25th November 2005ce

The Hanging Stone, near Neyland, Pembrokeshire

The Hanging Stone, near Neyland, Pembrokeshire


My first weblog after discovering this marvellous site. I was interested to read the comments about the great new house built next to the cromlech, altering its energetic field. Someone has o removed the sign at the end of the lane advertising the cromlech's location.

Anyway this is truly a magical site. There are more stones to the east, carelessly thrown into an hedge, probably formerly part of a double dolmen. That this was an important place and was still alive from Neolithic times to at least the Celtic era is recognised by local place names. For example, the cromlech is sited near the meeting point of two lanes - named Thurston and Oxland (the Celts brought the oxen to Britain and it was a sign of wealth and power). It is also situated in the hamlet of Hill Mountain, a curious name. Until one realises the cromlech is just east of a part hidden natural mound (from which its stones might have come) that when ascended affords uninterrupted panoramic views (as estate agents would have it) of the whole of Pembrokeshire. Not only south towards St Daniels, Lundy Island and St Govans etc but also now to the north and the great mysterious diaspora of the Preseli Hills. Truly an impressive location. Great swathes of peaceful energy radiate.

Looking south towards the Castlemartin ridge the only landmark to be seen is the spire of St Daniels church - a pre-Christian site with a circular churchyard and an holy well, reputed to be the early hermitage of the renowned Welsh saint, Daniel. Excited I drove around to St Daniels, and standing on the wall that encircles the churchyard I eagerly searched back with binoculars for the Hanging Stone. There it was - glinting silver in the sunlight, and alongside it the mound that made a hill into a mountain was so obviously present.
Posted by korgilud
24th October 2005ce

Prehistory, Pals, Pints and a Pasty – a perfect day.

Prehistory, Pals, Pints and a Pasty – a perfect day.


Sunday 25th September 2005.

Dartmoor bathed in autumnal sunshine, ripe for a stretching yomp with my finest friends, taking in the Bronze Age compound of Grimspound, and the small kist-centred stone ring of Soussons Common Cairn Circle, ending with the cool darkness of the Warren House Inn.

The day was bright and blustery with intermittent slight clouds to bathe us as we gloried in this fine slice of countryside; the last purple blush of the heather was invisible until almost underfoot, and the quick leap to flight of skylarks and other small birds served to bring our heads quickly to the bright blue of the sky above.

The route from the Warren House Inn to Grimspound – a distance of around 1.5 miles - traverses the many deep gouges and scars of the Birch Tor and Vitifer tin mines, that finally ceased production in 1939. Bar the deep open gullies, little remains - only a few granite plinths remain of the outbuildings, with some ominous looking bracken-edged craters that might once have been shafts. Before reaching Headland Warren Farm, and Grimspound beyond, a stone row can be seen on the ridgeback of the rounded Hill – unnamed on OS maps – south of the path through the disused workings.

Grimspound has been well documented elsewhere, but to evoke what passed before me, I quote at length from John Lloyd Warden Page's "An Exploration of Dartmoor and its Antiquities with some account of its Borders" published in 1889:

"But from the crest of Hookner Tor* we shall look down upon an enclosure lying on the slope of Hameldown opposite, to which other circles are but pigmies. Even at this distance we may discern a number of rings of stone within its walls, marking the abode of wild shepherd, wilder hunter, or of warriors long since passed away – mighty Grimspound.
The scene is impressive, and we stand for some moment surveying the remains of these ancient dwellings, encircled by their ruined walls, which at one moment stand forth clear and defined in the warm sunlight, and the next wax indistinct as a cloud drifts over the face of the sun, plunging hill and valley into shadow. A great sweep of wild moor rolls away into the western distance, weird, mysterious, solitary. Unbidden rise the words of one who knew and loved the great upland many years ago:

"If you want sternness and loneliness, pass into Dartmoor. There are wastes and wilds, crags of granite, views into far-off districts, and the sound of waters hurrying away over their rocky beds, enough to satisfy the largest hungering and thirsting after poetical delight."


*Hookner Tor is now shown on OS maps as Hookney Tor.

We saw all of this, exploring the inorganic remnants of the small round huts, some with curved entrance passages to protect those inside from the worst of the weather, and the impressive entrance high on the southern side of the ring. An enforced diet of Ray Mears and "Time Team" means that the minds eye immediately puts flesh on these remnants, constructing high-pitched roofs, curling wood smoke etc…. As we were leaving, a kestrel slid westward across the sky, scouring the ground for signs of life.

A short walk along the minor road that runs southward towards Ashburton along the eastward valley slope, and we crossed the road to rejoin the bridlepath, crossing the slight stream at the bottom of the valley. Half a mile southwards, in fields of closely-cropped grass, we passed the ruins of the medieval village of Challacombe, thick stone walls now surrounded by strong upright trees. The bridlepath continues through the farm, the gate deep in the shade of the trees. Beyond the farm, at the bridlepath fork, we took the lower path on to Soussons Farm, skirting the edge of the conifer plantation – one of the last planted on Dartmoor in the late 1940's - to come upon Soussons Common Cairn Circle, set back from the road, hard against the plantation's southern edge.

Soussons Common Cairn Circle — Fieldnotes

03.10.05ce
The Circle is a sweet spot – falsely so, sadly, due to the shelter and screening effect of the 60-year old plantation – but has fine views to the south and southwest. Jeremy Butler in Volume 5 of the Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities highlights that there was a triple stone row associated with the circle, but alas it has now gone – "site only: vicinity overplanted" - vanished beneath the serried ranks of pine. The grid reference of the row is listed as SX676799; well inside the plantation proper, half a mile or so northwards up the slope of Soussons Common: we looked, but in vain. Surrounded by conifers on three sides, it's difficult to see how the Circle may have looked in a cleaner landscape, but the row would most likely have been visible further up the hill.

The circle is described as a cairn circle; a delineating ring of closely-spaced (but not touching) small stones that enclosed a cairn-covered kist. However, to me it looks more like a kerb circle; a kist burial once covered by a more shallow stone covering (see Note below). I acknowledge that this difference may be nit-picking…...

The stretch north cut straight through the plantation – a mite boggy underfoot, despite the pleasant weather, and a considerable drain on the limbs: if the pub wasn't at the end of it, I might never have made it back! The whole trip took about three hours, covered a bit less than six miles, but will linger long in my memory…….




Note: The different types of burial monuments found on Dartmoor are explained here:

http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/dnp/pubs/archpt2.pdf

and here is a good background to the span of prehistoric archaeology on Dartmoor:

http://www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/dnp/factfile/archaeo.pdf

Soussons Common Cairn Circle — Images

03.10.05ce
<b>Soussons Common Cairn Circle</b>Posted by Pilgrim
Pilgrim Posted by Pilgrim
30th September 2005ce
Edited 26th November 2005ce

'Seek and ye shall find' Jordan Valley dolmens

'Seek and ye shall find' Jordan Valley dolmens


Warning: This is quite a long weblog. However it is lavishly illustrated (a bit further down) for your viewing pleasure. All photos by Moth Clark.The River Jordan flows south out of Lake Tiberias 320kms to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the surface of the earth. The river follows the line of the Great Rift Valley, a meeting of two massive geological tectonic plates which runs north to south for more than 5,000kms from Syria to Mozambique.

The River Jordan now forms the frontier between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. At some point along the banks of the River Jordan 2,000 years ago, a Jewish social reformer underwent a watery ritual with his cousin called John in a cleansing ceremony known as 'baptism'.

Piero della Francesca's 'Baptism of Christ'

But human activity in the Jordan valley goes back far, far further than this. With rich alluvial soils, a regular water supply and a good climate it was an obvious choice for humankind to settle and begin farming. And so it came to pass.

Both Israel and Jordan claim to have found the exact place where the baptism occurred. Tourists in any doubt can visit both. We visited neither. We did find something very interesting indeed though. Not far from the more likely baptism site near Bethany-Beyond-The-Jordan on the Jordanian side of the frontier - fields of dolmens.


'Seek and ye shall find' (Matthew 7:7)
You won't find them in any guide books. I only found out about them while flicking through the worthy but spectacularly dull 'Dolmens for the Dead' by Roger Joussaume in which the writer virtually overlooks them. A bit of desk research lead me to a small amount of information on the megalithic portal (http://www.megalithic.co.uk) which in turn directed me to HG Scheltema, a kind Dutchman, who sent me a little more information.

We were on an organised tour of Jordan which allowed no free time. Happily, a cock up by Bastard Airways had resulted in a spare day at the end of the trip. Our tour leader, Carole, an old friend of mine, knew how keen Moth and I were to see some/any Jordanian dolmens, so she phoned Ismael, her local agent in Amman, who she remembered had done an archaeology degree. Ismael didn't really know where they were exactly but felt pretty sure that armed with our sketchy notes and a bit of luck asking around locally we might find some. He arranged a car for us and an English speaking driver. It was pretty expensive but we'd come all this way. We had to take the chance and cough up the dinars.

Next morning, our driver arrived on time. But it appeared as if he could hardly speak any English and we weren't confident he knew what we were actually looking for! Dolmens. Yes. He kept saying 'donads' (rhyming with 'gonads') as if it were the only English word he knew. Or it might've been 'donuts'. Mmmm. We drove off.

Luckily my rough knowledge of Jordanian geography combined with my woefully inadequate notes (one side of A4) indicated that at least we were going in the right direction. We cleared the suburbs of Amman, and passed once again, the Holy Land Shopping Mall (a more loathsome collection of biblical tat you could not wish to find - 'best buys' included a model of the Dome of the Rock in mother-of-pearl and a nativity scene made of fimo with a lovingly crafted figure of a man slaughtering a lamb included) and south west onto the Dead Sea Highway.

Stopped at a random roadside checkpoint, we smiled benignly at the man in khaki with a big gun and bushy moustache. The driver showed him my woefully inadequate notes on which was a small picture of some dolmens. 'OK!' he smiled and waved us through. A sign at the side of the road showed sea level. The road descended steadily.


Hallelujah!
I turned my megalithing antenna into 'maximum search' mode and scanned the landscape. I knew there were dolmens fields somewhere round here but the likelihood of seeing them from the road was slim. But just a kilometre down the highway from the sea level sign, I spotted something on the barren rocky hillside. Dolmens!!! The more I looked, the more I could see! The driver obviously had no idea they were there. 'Stop the car!' we yelled.

We scrambled excitedly up the hot, dusty hillside, crunching limestone rubble underfoot to reach the dolmens.

Just in this tiny area of hillside I counted three still with capstones on and at least six more wrecked ones and traces of several more. It also seemed obvious that a nearby quarry (limestone is second favourite building material only to concrete 'round here) may have destroyed numerous others.

Made of now badly weathered limestone slabs they were mostly the same size - about 1.3ms tall and 2-3metres wide and deep. This was to be the pattern for practically all the dolmens we would see.

I wasn't exactly sure where we were; the Moab mountains, I thought. 'Kafrein' said the driver. I was none the wiser. The Lonely Planet guide maps were too general for our needs. This may have been the Rawdah site according to my notes, but I'm not really sure. The roadsigns showed we were 12kms from the Dead Sea and 6kms from the baptism site. Does anyone know for sure what they are called? The photo above shows their position close the the main road, with the large newly built blue golden-domed mosque on the slopes opposite. Whatever they are called, we were very, very excited about them.

Baptism of fire
'More donads!?' said the driver enthusiastically. We managed to work out that he had instructions to take us to see the Damiyah field of dolmens, which according to my note are the biggest and best known. He'd obviously never seen a dolmen before and our passion for them seemed to have rubbed off on him a bit.

Very soon, as the road dropped deeper below sea level, the Dead Sea and the lush flat green plain of the Jordan Valley came into view. And suddenly, right by the roadside - more dolmens! We stopped the car to take a look.

Perhaps six or seven here were clearly visible. There seemed as if there may be more further up the hillside, but it was 10.30 and already screamingly hot with no shade around at all, so we saved our energy for the big prize.


Back into the mercifully air-conditioned car we continued towards our Holy Grail - the Damiyah field. As we approached the area the driver stopped and asked various local people who seemed not to know anything.

We tried a smaller road to the west - but were not confident and were stopped by a checkpoint anyway - we were getting too close to the Israeli border. Back onto the main(ish) road, I spied a ridge on our right and my megalith antenna registered 'getting warmer'. We drove up a farm track to the right (east). My antenna went into 'hot' mode. Suddenly we spotted them! LOADS of them! As we got closer, distinctive shapes broke the skyline! WOW! How the hell we were going to get up that steep ridge I had no idea, but get up there we would.

Armed with sunhats, water bottles and determination we got up the first ridge OK, beyond which was a fast flowing canal. On the other side, the land rose steeply and our dolmens stood near the top.

Scrambling up the red hot ridge we were soon passing dolmen after dolmen not knowing where to start looking; there were just TOO MANY dolmens to investigate!!!

I was aware that the searing heat and the total lack of shade would limit the time we could spend up here and sadly realised that painting would be out of the question.

I reckon there are still maybe 50 or even 60 clearly visible up here stretching along the ridge, dotted around randomly, with some only a few metres from each other.

All wonderful, all unique, and an absolute head-f*ck! Within one square kilometre up here, there may even be more dolmens than exist in the whole of the England, Wales and Scotland! I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong. Please do!

The dolmens themselves follow a pretty regular buiding style and are similar sizes. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

Many have a square cut entrance hole in the 'front' (facing roughly north) giving them a unique character.

They are in various states of disrepair.

This one (below) still had cairn material littered about it:

We scampered about the hillside: happy, dusty and with the sweat rolling off. I stood on the capstone of the highest one I could find and surveyed the the Holy Land below:
-Over there is the baptism site.
-Over there is Jericho.
-Over there Mount Nebo, from where Moses saw the Promised Land and subsequently died.
-And right here I was standing in the midst of a necropolis built by civilised, farming people who lived probably 4,000 years before Jesus. Their beautiful tombs are ignored by coach parties of tourists, their magnificent pioneering achievements almost forgotten, overshadowed by the life of a rebellious son of carpenter. They even seem virtually unknown in Jordan itself, and this seems to be the case for dolmens in the other countries that the Jordan Valley runs through.

Disasterously for Damiyah, a quarry just to the north is eating up the slopes of the valley. Many may have already been lost. What chance those that remain have seems uncertain.

Thanks to my gorgeous friend Carole, Ismael in Amman, HG Scheltema and our driver for helping us make this day happen.
Jane Posted by Jane
23rd September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

A Rough Tor of Bodmin

A Rough Tor of Bodmin


It's difficult to believe while standing on the edge of the moors that the land stretching far out across the horizon was once inhabited by ancient man. Rocks scattered into a jumbled mess covering the gorse grass that twists feverously in the wind. With dark clouds looming across the Tor I set off towards the round huts, that I'm sure once stood proud against the magnificent prehistoric backdrop of Rough Tor. With in the confines of the first hut it is easy to marvel at the size of the construction. And I had no difficulty imagining the high pointed roofs stained black from soot rising off the central cooking fires. In the main cluster I counted ten huts in a semi circle. The moor around seemed scattered with small stone walls, their lay out more obvious from the Tor's summit. They formed what looked like plots of land, in my mind fields. There was one defined wall which cut deep between a group of huts, beyond which was a smaller cluster. I left the ancient village my destination the Tor's summit.

The wind battered rocks sculpted over centuries, balance on top of each other. Through the cracks and crevices the wind whistled adding an eerie atmosphere to the already magnetic feeling I felt as I observed the panoramic view across Bodmin. Below to the South of Rough Tor lies the Fernacre Stones. This is a very large circle, which keeps within the tradition of others in the area. As I walked around the stones I counted over 70 stones, 40 of which have stayed standing over the centuries. It's not impressive in height as some of the megaliths barely peep above ground level. But it is obvious that in the soft peat they have become deeply embedded and over the years have sunk below the height they were originally erected at.

I travelled west from the Fernacre stones towards Louden Hill. I was on rout to find the Louden Minhers, two parts of a collapse platform cairn. One stone stood tall against the darkening overcast sky, cutting a fine silhouette. The other stone had unfortunately fallen at some point over the years, it now rest majestically nestled amongst the grasses. Nearby to these two megaliths lies the remains of another ruinous village lost to time and the evolution of man.

Continuing west I aimed for the Stannon Stones, on my approach I came across a cairn circle jutting from the ground. Four stones stood proud in a semi circle whil a circle of fallen stones surrounded them and finishing the semi circle lay the remaining stones. The cairn came as a surprise to me; I wasn't looking for it and new nothing of its existence so it came as a complete surprise to me. I welcomed the moment to gaze upon them. Only a few meters in diameter it is a delight to see. As the light looked as if it were fading I needed to press on to my destination of the Stannon Stones.

I finally they came into view of them, a circle with huge dimensions, its size not dissimilar to Fernacre. Again like the previous circle the stones a low to the ground, but I couldn't help in wondering if they hadn't been a lot taller at one point. Again the enemy of time, allowing them to sink into the soft peat. The power of such at site keeps the air magnetic. Stannon Stone circle brought the end of my hike on Bodmin. I left the car park close to Rough Tor farm and made my way past ancient settlement and monuments. I came to the realisation that there is so much to see on these more that one visit would know where be enough. But for me this time round I had run out of time to ponder on this place. The light was waning and dark clouds gathered over head. I had no wish to be stranded here as the rain came lashing down, so I headed back to my car and then onto a hot bath at my hotel. Its well worth the time to wander these moor's there is so much of what once was and is now lost to us. In time I shall go back and make my way to King Arthur's Hall and explore that side of the moors. The power that runs through the surrounding country side leaves you with no doubt why our ancestors built here. The scenery is breath taking and every thing about it brings back my dreams of an ancient time.
shadowmonkey Posted by shadowmonkey
22nd September 2005ce

Pink and practically perfect Petra

Pink and practically perfect Petra


Seeing is believing. The Rose Red City. The highlight of Jordan. Probably the highlight of the Middle East. Possibly the most fantastic place made by human beings in the world. I kid you not. It has all the features that make the jaw drop: vast scale, grandeur, beauty, surprise, location, supreme human effort, natural wonder, history, romance, magic.

I had seen photos of Petra in books from my childhood. A pink city in a desert carved out of rock during the two centuries BC. Just think about that for moment! Then imagine that such a place could be 'lost' for almost two millennia. I felt sure that one day I would see it for myself. The day was 6 September 2005. I had always imagined myself riding to it. So I did!

Riding past rock cut chambers and djinn towers towards the Siq

As-Siq
I dismounted and left the horse at the top of As-Siq, a long, extraordinary gorge down which you walk to reach the city. 1.2km long, at times only two metres wide, the sheer sandstone walls rise all around you, creating fantastic plastic shapes where the stone has been weathered by water, time and sand.

And the rock is multi-coloured! Pink, orange, sulphur yellow, manganese blue, white, red, maroon, crimson... changing all the time as the light and shadow plays on it.

I had read the guidebooks, heard people tell me how unreal the gorge is but nothing prepares you for the sheer fantastical madness of this crazy canyon. All the way along the bottom you follow a deep channel carved into the rock, down which ran the water to supply the city.

The first view
Just before we reached the end of the Siq the guide stopped us to 'warn' us that around the next corner we would see our first glimpse of Petra's best known view. I was already blown away, so the warning seemed all rather melodramatic. However... we rounded the corner and moving into view I finally saw it.

It was as if a bolt of pure, beautiful electricity had exploded in my chest. I wept like a child. And I wasn't the only one in our group blubbing. I stood for sometime unable to look again as if this wonderful apparation was just some fabulous trick in my mind and if I peeped it would be gone. But no, it was real!

Pink perfection
The perfect facade of the Treasury, as it is called, is 43ms high and cut out of the rock face and glowed pink and orange and is only one of EIGHT HUNDRED rock cut temples, tombs, houses, market places, amphitheatres, public and private dwellings that make up the city.

Many are badly eroded, being carved of sandstone, but the Treasury's position has protected it well.

Many facades are crumbling and worn by water and weather and appear to be, in some wacky Dali-esque way, melting away in front of your eyes. And everywhere as the grain of the rock is exposed, the stone appears to be marbled in gorgeous colours.

We shuffled slowly down the main 'street' (actually a sandstone gorge) marvelling at the edifices which leave you lost in wonder.


The Monastery
After lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant, a number of us decided to go up The Monstery, a temple carved around 300BC high up away from the main drag, about an hour's walk uphill in 40 degrees of heat. Sod that. I'd probably trip and fall down some steep gorge to certain and bloody death. Much safer to hire a nice comfortable sure-footed donkey. This would allow me time to paint at the top, too.

Me and my white ass clatter down rock cut steps
My big strong white ass knew the way and tore off ahead of the walkers. On the way up, away from the main city complex, you get a really strong sense of how vast this ancient city was. The little gorge leading to the Monastery was pock marked with carved caves and tombs, houses and niches, steps and irrigation channels.

Finally reaching the Monastery is quite a shock. Having left behind the main area, that something so large and utterly beautiful could apparently be so easily carved out of a fucking mountainside right up here is truly staggering. I tried to imagine to planning process.:"Hey, Ibrahim! How about you and yer mates carve a 45 metre grand facade out of the mountain up there?" Perhaps not. The facade is bigger than the Treasury and appears to be carved out of melt-resistant butter. I moored the donkey and sat in the shade strategically positioned drinks stall and got out my sketchbook.

Next day Moth and Carole planned to hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice. I could've taken another donkey and gone with them but I wanted to sit and paint.

I had my sights set on the facade of the Treasury in the early morning light as is glowed.

I'd love to spend a month in Petra painting! As it was, I only had the morning. I did this in 50 minutes:


Little Petra (Siq Barid)
Little Petra is the sort of place that if it weren't overshadowed by its famous neighbour would have visitors flocking in thousands. It's not as extensive as the main site or even as dramatic, but it is enchanting and somehow more approachable than Petra. It consists of one main gorge which opens out and in the rock on each side tombs, rooms and facades have been carved. Water channels and collection tanks are clearly visible and inside the chambers are carved platforms for sitting, dining and living. It reminded me very strongly of Cala Morrell in Menorca, only more ornate and twice as hot.

Al-Beidha neolithic village
Just around the hillside (a merciful ten minute walk) from Little Petra is Al-Beidha neolithic village, dated at 9,000 years old. "Skara Brae" we cried!

Thick walls of stone rubble have been excavated of a settlement of a small early farming community. A couple of neolithic houses have been mocked up to show the trickle of visitors what it would have once been like.

The bedouin children from the nearby tents danced around us and demonstrated how to use the various genuine 9,000 year old quern stones littering the place. Just 50ms away are some standing stones, but because we didn't read the sign we missed them. Grrr!


Petra by night
Petra by night is an event is billed in the tourist blurb as: 'an unforgettable experience evoking a unique atmosphere of Petra by candlelight... a magical way to see the old city'. It seemed unmissable! We booked. But when you go to Petra, don't be tempted to do it...

We walked the 1.5km toward the entrance to the Siq from our hotel and then walked the 1.2kms down the Siq - all lit up by candles flickering in paper bags. It was very pretty - looking up you could see the impossibly starry sky above the top of the gorge. The long walk led you to believe there might be some spectacle at the end. But what a disappointment! The space in front of the Treasury was lit with hundreds more candles in paper bags among which a bedouin man sat singing and playing a stringed
instrument. It sounded awful. Later, another man played the pipes. That was a bit nicer. A man got a torch and shone the weak beam round the Treasury's massive facade. It was pathetic. Soon after, a lengthy introduction was made in Spanish. The same speech was made in English. As the speaker began limbering up in German, Moth and I could take no more. We left feeling badly let down by the Petra authorities.

Is it safe to go?
The Iraqi invasion has hit the Jordanian tourist industry hard. People believe - quite wrongly - that Jordan is somehow 'dangerous' being a neighbour of Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is politically stable, at peace with Israel, has a thriving economy, industrious and kind people and its biggest attraction, Petra, is Jordan's main source of tourist income. There were many fewer tourists than usual. Good for us perhaps, but the local bedouin (who actually lived among these ancient rocks until 1995 until the government rehoused them nearby away from the site) rely on tourists' dinars to make a living.


- N O T E S -
Access for the disabled and less confident walkers
Petra is quite accessible for disabled people and less confidentwalkers. You can ride a horse to the Siq (as I did) or hire a calesh (a two-person horse-drawn carriage) which will take you both down the entrance road AND the Siq. Caleshs can also be used around the main street. The Siq is paved and smooth most of the way so suitable for wheelchairs. Donkeys and mules can be hired for moving around the main site and getting up the high paths to the mountain tops and remote sites. Camels are also available but these are only really for decorative purposes and getting up and down the main drag. Wheelchairs would find it difficult to get over the dusty flat paths of the main drag, but certainly not impossible.

Animal welfare: though worked hard, all the animals at Petra I saw looked to be in good health and well-fed. All the horses were adequately shod.

Facilities
There are toilets built into a rock cut chamber which are spectacularly clean and flush, too! And restaurants and stalls (selling gorgeous locally crafted jewellery) can be found intermittantly throughout the site. Two restaurants at the western end of the Colonnaded street are wonderful. The desserts at The Basin restaurant would please the fussiest of Scottish megaraks.
Jane Posted by Jane
19th September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

Syria: stuffed with stones

Syria: stuffed with stones


Leaving aside Syria's dodgy politics, the country ought to be famous for many things: the friendliest of people, fertile soils, vibrant and welcoming cities and fascinating archaeological sites. If it's crumbly stuff you love, then Syria's your kind of place. From the finest crusader castles in the world, early examples of the spread of Christianity from the Byzantine period and before, Ottoman palaces, ancient caravanserais to R*man cities that will leave you weeping in astonishment, Syria is indeed blessed.

And you don't have to scratch the surface very hard to see that many of these places were built on earlier settlements - this region is, after all, the cradle of human civilisation. Both Aleppo and Damascus claim to be the oldest cities in the world in continuous habitation. I don't doubt it. Syria's strategic position on trade routes between East and West has given it a unique position in the history of human development.

Ugarit - write it down
Near the Mediterranean port of Latakia lies the ancient, now abandoned city of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) inhabited for 7,000 years; from the seventh millennium BC to the R*mans. It is here amongst crumbling walls of an extensive city from the 18th century BCE that the earliest example of alphabetic writing was unearthed on terracotta tablets. For one who loves words, language and writing so much, a visit to Ugarit was essential.

The Ugarit site was discovered in 1928 by a farmer ploughing his fields. Soon after the French began excavations revealing layers of settlements. During the Neolithic 9,000 years ago there was a small fortified town. In the early Copper Age, painted pottery appears with geometric designs and both flint and metal tools. The Middle Bronze Age layer shows great expertise in bronze working and it is from this time that the ruins we saw are from.

Discounting cave paintings, the earliest evidence of writing dates back to 3500 BCE in Uruk, in southern Iraq. As humankind developed the need to record more complex notions arose. All early writing systems (like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese pictographs) use a complete symbol for an entire word or syllable. They could then be combined to express complex thoughts.

The inhabitants of Ugarit went one step further and recognised that speech consists of a finite number of sounds each of which could be represented with a symbol which could then be put together to make words. The alphabet of all phonetic languages today are based on the 30 symbols created by the people of Ugarit: Arabic, Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sanskrit and so on.

A lot is known about Bronze Age Ugarit because they could record their activity. They built palaces, temples, shrines and libraries. They constructed cedar ships and became a great naval power refining many principles of navigation. They traded textiles, ivory, weapons and silver with the cities of the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Aegean Sea, Egypt and Asia Minor. The reason for the city's abandonment is unknown; possibly invasion or natural disaster.

It was screamingly hot as we entered the site climbing the small hill on which the site stands. As we stood at the top surveying the complex it became immediately apparent that the level of human and social development was no different from today. OK, they didn't have electricity, or the internal combustion engine or the microchip, but they did have complicated buildings and streets, running water, palaces, civic systems and a level of social organisation that allowed them the time to think creatively about abstract concepts, rather than just survive.

On one clay tablet found, written 3,400 years ago reveals that concerns among the people then is no different to now. It says: "Do not tell your wife where you hide your money." It should, of course, have said: "Let your wife look after your money and you will never be poor."

We shuffled through the beautiful ruins under the searing sun admiring the stone masonry, the layouts of the houses and palaces, the streets and palaces, I found it easy to imagine that 3,000 miles away on the fringes of Western Europe, civilisation would be flowering in similar ways. It's only that here, in the thick of trade routes in the busy pre R*man world, cities were built of materials that do not rot down.

Beehives!
As we drove inland towards Aleppo (which by the way, is where hamsters originate from) the temperature started to rise. We also noticed that in some of the villages 'beehive' houses were still being constructed and used. We stopped at one village to take a closer look and were immediately mobbed by small, friendly children.

The beehive houses still used today are of the same diameter and construction of others found across the Levant that date from the Neolithic. Made of salmon pink mud and straw they are about five metres in diametre and have a conical form with a round flat top and only have one room.

The walls are very thick and each house only has one entrance, keeping them warm in winter and cool in summer.

Mari melts away
Just ten kilometres from the Iraqi border, baking in the relentless sun, lies Mari, a Mesopotamian city first settled 2900BC.

Only revealed from layers of protective sand in the early 20th century the ancient mud brick walls (some five metres thick!) of a huge city lie crumbling away. Now exposed, winter rains and sandstorms hit the site hard and the city appears to be melting back into the dust. But there are still things to wonder at!

Waterproofed with tar, the vast, deep cisterns and water channels are still visible, palaces with niches for statuary in the walls, staircases, bits of Mesopotamian pottery poke up through the sand and to my delight, my very first ziggurat, from where I could see the mountains of Iraq.


Clay tablets found here reveal rich and close trading links between Ugarit on the coast and Palmyra.

Queen Zenobia's Palmyra
Though not within the remit of this website, I must also draw readers' attention to the R*man city of Palmyra.

Not because it is one of the most magical, vast, pant-wettingly beautiful, finely-preserved, fascinating, romantic and exotic of places. And not because in the flat, featureless vastness of the Syrian desert, a single spring welling up through the rock allowed this to become one of the richest cities in the ancient world. And not because of the evidence that Neolithic people settled and farmed here. And not because from 2,000 BCto 106AD it was a minor desert fort used by caravans and bedouin before Trajan got in there to big it up. No, though all of this is true. For the purposes of this website I must tell you about the tombs. Because I just love a funky tomb!
Tower power!
Built and used by Palmyra's residents from 333BC to as late as 128AD the tower tombs are a surprising feature of the landscape just to the west of the main city.

Here, in the Valley of the Tombs they build hypogea, too, cut into the rock, stacking the bodies in the same way as in the towers. Within the sturdy towers - like oversized fire hose drying towers - they placed corpses in neat rows, one on top of the other on stone plinths, just like in a modern day morgue.

In the partially rebuilt tower we entered it was cool and lofty, with marvellous frescoes and statues depicting the dead. It once held 300 bodies. There are loads of these towers, too, in various states of disrepair. The really crumbly ones reminded us of the building style of the 'navetas' we saw earlier this year in Menorca.


Where to go next?

Via Damascus, we travelled south to the magical kingdom of Jordan...
Jane Posted by Jane
18th September 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

SKAILL August 7th 2005

SKAILL August 7th 2005


Third open day, Castle of Snusgar, and finally the weather came good. All the live long day ! Good job this is the season buses go to Skaill, but this still meant a long time before the visitation. Keeping my perambulation tighter around the area this time around. A few check-ups and another attempt to reach a site. Six pounds to get into Skara Brae - no, thanks. Any way I had my own fish fry.
Straightforth from the visitors centre, then passing the church and on to Linnahowe. Not expecting much at this time of year and so pleasantly surprised to find no rank vegetation here to veil the scant archaeological evidentiae. Coming down the turn in the track you see a few stones in the northern end of the mound. Not much to show structure really, these could be the exposed back of a big shallow excavation. As you pass by the side there are even smaller and fewer stones to be seen near to the southern end that possibly curve in a line through to where woody plants such as nettles line the silage pit cut. According to the farmer responsible for the latter there was no trace of any structure found during the operation, only scattered stones and bones. This end is much higher now but may not have been so before as halfway up the cut I could see thick wavy black edges like plastic wrap, as if material from the cut had been used to build up the sides above this level. Unfortunately some modern stone and concrete has also been brought in so that one cannot from the totality of material even make a guess as to what really was there in the gap. The present-day farmer was even more interested in me than the kie at the site were, and it is difficult to relate your attraction to such an apparently bare spectacle. Eventually we grew bored with the silences in between !

Next stop the Knowe of Verron to check for damage. On the way thinking yet again about the middling hillock below the church. Presumably simply a field cut off by the modern road, or how else to explain the arc of 'standing stone fence' about a thing that has no name or history ? No damage done to the broch thankfully. I looked at little bridge under the drystane wall etc. the cliffside section of the church road. Obviously at some stage the road has been widened, for as at the grander one by Lesliedale (in St.Ola) close inspection reveals halfway along the passage a stone going clean across. With above road bridges you can often tell road-widening by the totally different structures about the stream either side., the original other end now buried under the road surface. To the other side of the stream there is a kind of pit with a few large stones which I suspect to be connected with the Viking burials - or simply a kelp-pit !!

My last target was the Knowe of Geoso, once thought to be a broch but no longer (wrong kind of place doncha know). At the end my last failure I had finally worked out where it lay from the Skaill House Farm (formerly The Mount) track. Most obvious route is along fieldwalls direct up from the farmhouse,.but there was some kind of horsey do going on. Instead from Skaill House you can see a farmtrack going all the way uphill to a large depression marked as a disused quarry, and this was my chosen route. For Orkney this is a fairsized quarry in area at least (not all that deep). Must go back when the grass dies down as Oldmaps does not show this as a quarry but does show a well by the lower lip. The depression is in the top right of the field and the adjacent field corner is where Brockan was (HY23041798) that led to the earlier broch identification, the knowe being visible by the diagonally opposite corner (could it have been the original Mount ?). No entry to that field from here. So I passed into the next field. At the top of this is the ridge going up to the site and along it in the other direction somewhere are other tumuli of which the named ones are the Knowe of Nebigarth (possible barrow atop an eminence) and the Knowe of Angerow (a cist reportedly taken from it and a possible cist slab on a more mutilated mound). A brilliant view from here over to the Yesnaby area including looking down on the Broch of Borwick (so many indentations in the coast you think yourself miles from a place when really you are, in vehicular terms, 'next-door'. Which is why in the Northern Isles boats were the thing). Magnified look at Geoso showed what at the time looked like a small man-made mound by a flattened hilltop. Snuck in to the Brockan field via a crumbly wall with old barbwire fence. Worked my way along to the end but no ingress. Back was a place with a gap twixt fence and fieldwall to step between. Barbwire fence attempt but electric uh-uh. So down across the field I went. Remains of a modern building and possible old farmtrack. And the obvious signs of a multiple watercourse to explain the name Brockan - it is another 'broken slope'. Over a gate and up along the fieldwall of the preferred route.
Up on top I could see that what I had seen previously was one site, a large flattened mound with the gap seen as a curving hollow carving its way across the width of it. There's supposed to be an earthfast stone in the exact centre but if it's only just protruding it is too well hidden. On the mound I can feel shallow depressions under my feet that must be part of the quarrying done out of it. Even if the 'passage' as we see it now is the result of more of said quarrying they obviously followed the path of least resistance and it is evidence for the underlying structure (chambered mound a contemporary update of Picts-house). Looking down to Skaill you can see the whole bay and most of the land below the surrounding hills and it is obvious that the Birsay Bay Project will be incomplete without a proper modern survey of the Knowe of Geoso. This side three drystane walls make a field junction, only made into a meeting of four by a 'standing stone fence' that starts atop the mound and heads towards a coastal waterfall.
Alongside the mound on that side are several large stones which the NMRS describes as an arc of earthfast stones. Those I can see don't feel like any kind of arc but instead form discrete clumps, a triangle of stones of disparate form and material and two in a depression roughly triangular but disparate in size. Perhaps if I come back when the grass is lower more stones will convince me that an arc does exist.

Rather than going down to The Mount I followed the dyke at my left. Felt like another 'broken slope' with the evidence of several watercourses and stonework in various places. I would have spent more time investigating this lovely landscape. Somewhere near my route was a well (HY22781821) and later I found on the 1882 map Rowhall (HY22861809) and Westfield (HY22831815) used to be in this area. After continuing to a fence corner I turned to head over to Skara Brae with a tight squeeze to gain the coast. An intriguing lump over by a farm and just before I scrambled down to the beach the jumbled remains of a drystone building between path and cliff edge. It is only a month later I discover that in going along the cliffs I must have passed by the sites of the back of a prehistoric structure (ruined wall at HY22921877 with midden) and a cist (HY22941876 with prehistoric stonework still close by), then by a bend in the Garricott farmtrack facing the coast a settlement mound (HY22941874).

Back up to Snusgar in time to be part of the second batch of visitors. This year they had moved onto the other side of the Castle of Snusgar mound. Even fewer signs of structures than last year. But some beautiful stratigraphy thanks to the regular influx of sand even this far from the shore, delicate layers of light and dark. Near the present base of the mound there is a stone construction. Only it is likely to be a kelp-pit from operations that the excavations have shown took place on the site in fairly recent
times. This side of the hillock there is a deep sand-filled ditch probably several feet deep, and if only they had the resources they are sure something much earlier would be revealed beneath it all. Much clearer results are coming from the new mound that they are starting on. For now they are referring to it as the east mound, though I think Snusgar East would be a more appropriate nomenclature. On the way there a bairn kept piping up to ask about burials and I considered mentioning the rock-cut tomb (HY21NW 35 at HY24221955) found in the edge of Sand Fiold opposite, somewhere in the sandy hill reveal visible from here. Finally on the new mound they have come up with a proper building and perhaps another stucture as well. Must be Viking or early mediaeval as the foundations are so regular and the details so clear even to the casual observer. Unlike last year here was something worth photographing by mere mortals (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/circlesettler/files/Snusgar%20East/). It is probably relevant to bring up the discovery (at HY23691962) of the the Skaill silver hoard from yet another sandy hill, this one between here and the Castle of Snusgar if I have located Snusgar East correctly.

With more time to fill before the bus back to Stromness I went down the road by the Loch of Skaill to get as close to the peedie islet as possible. At last I had some decent snaps. Not much to look at, and when doing some other research I found that it is a modern artifice laid down by one of the Grahams of Skaill. Or so the story goes. On the way back to the visitors centre popped off the road near the northern end of the loch to have a shufty at quarry. Nothing really to report. Had a look for the well shown close to it on the 1:25,000. Struck out there. Later I was going over the 1882 on Oldmaps and noticed that it did not show said well but did mark one on the opposite shore at exactly the same easting. Shurely shome mistake. Considered walking up to the Knowe of Geoso to take measurements but decided with the time left to have my packed lunch on one of the big circular picnic tables beside the car park road the other side of the stream instead.
wideford Posted by wideford
5th September 2005ce

Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt2.

Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt2.


The Elephant and the Red Angel.

My second exploration to scratch the surface of Sardinian prehistory involved a visit to a pair of sites commonly known as Domus de Janus which I believe translates as 'tombs of the fairies' although I have seen this translated as 'tombs of the witches'. Either way they are rock cut tombs.
One site I had high on my list was Anghelu Ruju, a necropolis of rock cut tombs.
Anghelu Ruju is about 60 miles from where I was staying in Sardinia, the drive to the site involved following the long winding road along the north coast to Porto Torres and then turning south towards Alghero. If you find your self in Sardinia and travelling along the north coast road (200) I would advise you to by-pass Castelsardo, this will benefit you in two ways. Firstly, you'll avoid driving through a picturesque but congested town with narrow hilly streets lined with cars just waiting to tear off your wing mirrors. Secondly the by-pass road gives you easy access to a wonderful site called L'Elefante.

L'Elefante also known as Castelsardo dell'Elefante or Roccia dell'Elefante

L'Elefante is exactly what it says it is, an elephant or at least an elephant shaped rock. If you approach it from the north it is an upright elephant and from the south it is an elephant sitting down either way it is unmistakably an elephant. I had passed this rock a few days before and dismissed it as a tourist curiosity, one of hundreds of bizarrely-shaped rocks that litter the island. Two things changed my mind about this, one was the road sign which said Domus de Janus and the second was a brief reference in Margaret Guido's excellent 'Sardinia' book.
L'Elephante couldn't be easier to visit as it is on the kerbside next to a major road; there is also a handy lay-by opposite the rock. One thing I should warn you about is that you have to run the gauntlet of a group of old men selling tourist trinkets at the side of the road, there is even a man with a donkey, donkey rides on a main road?..hmmm No grazie. Two things struck me about the hawkers, one, they seemed to be mainly selling knives, two, none of them would have looked out of place in the Godfather part 2, wrong island I know but that's how they looked, all that was missing were the shotguns.
The rock is perched on the margins of the road on a hillside overlooking the coastal plain from Castelsardo to the north, the views are beautiful and include a http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9gj.jpg"> nice view of the Nuraghe su Tesoru
To tell you the truth I wasn't expecting too much from this site but what a shock I got. The rock itself reminded me of a large red cinder, there's that colour again!, but it wasn't until I got up close to it that I realised that there were a number of chambers carved into it, I was even more surprised when I climbed through one of the http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9gh.jpg"> carved portals into the chambers and was confronted by two great http://images.fotopic.net/ybh9g4.jpg"> crescents carved into the walls of the chambers. The carvings were beautifully executed and still quite crisp.
If you are travelling around the north of the island I would definitely recommend that you call in on L'Elefante. The nearby medieval seaside town of Castelsardo is very picturesque and a good place to stop and have a drink and something to eat.

The next stop on my itinary was Anghelu Ruju but to reach it I had to drive to Porto Torres and then head south to Alghero. Porto Torres is a nightmare, you are channelled into the town through gradually narrowing streets until you reach the port from there it's anyone guess, pick a road and follow it. Six times I passed through Porto Torres never travelling the same route twice. Once you've cleared Porto Torres it's fairly plain sailing. The drive across the fertile plain to Alghero is fairly pleasant but uneventful.

Necropoli Anghelu Ruju
The name means 'Red Angel'. This 'red' thing is starting to nag at me.
The site was discovered in 1903 by a workers quarrying the local sandstone. 37 tombs have so far been discovered' almost all of the literature uses the words 'so far'.
The site is well signposted and situated next to main road. There is a car park and an entry fee is required.
The tombs have been dated by the finds discovered within them to the Oziere culture of approximately 3300-2800BC. The tombs were later reused by different cultures including the Beaker culture.
All there is to see when you enter the site is a low grassy hill surrounded by rich farmland and close to a large river, the Riu Filberta. This area is known as Fertilia. The remains of the quarry are visible along with a few loose rocks and one small http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazj.jpg">standing stone. The locations of the tomb entrances are given away by little information boards above each tomb. The board tells you the tomb number, gives a plan of the tomb and provides you with a little information about the tomb.
I'm not sure if you are allowed to climb down into the tombs. I couldn't see a sign prohibiting it so I crawled through a number of them. Crawling through the chambers was a little scary, some of the chambers had props supporting the ceilings so I tended to avoid these, I also tried not to think about the dead snake my son had found the previous day. I was unable to stand up in any of the chambers; which to me would indicate that they were not used for ritual activity on a regular basis. The chambers did not seem to follow a uniform layout.
"In plan the tombs naturally vary, but not infrequently a large burial chamber with smaller chambers radiating from it is reached by a long passage sloping down from the entrance steps: the passage too may have chambers leading off it. Others are much simpler. The chamber themselves may be oval or rectangular in plan, and have round or flat ceilings". Sardinia. M.Guido
One common feature of the tombs and chambers was the rectangular door with the http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazi.jpg">carved recess; which was also a feature of L'Elefante and reminded me at the time of carved entrances I'd seen in Maltese temples. Many of the doors also had a carved lintel. In one of the tombs there were carved stone pillars which I presume were there as architectural feature rather than structural supports. In another tomb, whose roof had collapsed, was a http://images.fotopic.net/ybhaze.jpg">carved bed. The lintels, pillars and carved bed lead you to think that design of the tombs may have reflected features found in the houses of the Ozerei people who created the tombs.
There are two sets of carvings that make this site really special. One is a set of carvings depicting 5 http://images.fotopic.net/ybhazb.jpg">Bulls heads ,or protomi turine, situated above the entrance to a tomb with a 6th on an adjacent wall.
The second set of carvings is within tomb XXVII. This http://images.fotopic.net/ybxw1e.jpg">carving depicts a pair of crescents over a set of concentric circles enclosed within a rectangular box; there are two of these carvings facing each other on opposing walls. There is much speculation as to the meaning of these carvings, the depiction of bulls heads outside of one of the tombs strengthens the arguments that these carvings are stylised versions of the bulls head and are linked to a bull cult others suggest that they may represent high–prowed ships. Unfortunately my camera packed up as I was photographing this carving so the images I have are a little rough.
When the tombs were excavated they yielded many grave goods including metal axes, beads, marble idols and many other objects, the most interesting of which to me, was a flat axe and an awl that were found to have come from the British Isles, probably Ireland.
Anghelu Ruju is a beautiful site and well worth a visit.
Whilst driving south from the site towards Alghero I noticed a large standing stone in a field margin on a bend in the road. The road was too busy to stop and check it out but it's worth looking out for if you are in the area.

Conclusions
I haven't too much to say about the two Domus de Jana that I visited. Rock cut tombs are wonderful places, the addition of carving to the Sardinian tombs make them seem somehow more personal. Looking at the http://images.fotopic.net/ybhaz4.jpg">bulls heads reminded me of something I read a book by Christopher Tilley that contained the following quote by someone called Robb that seems to sum it all up "Fixing the moment of encounter to an eternal now".
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
28th August 2005ce

Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt1.

Scratching the Surface in Sardinia Pt1.


Tombi dei Giganti, Gobsmacked in Gallura

My journey to Sardinia began about 4 months ago when my we first booked a family holiday to the island. It was then I began to hit the resources looking for information on the Mediterranean's second largest island. I managed to get hold of a copy of Margaret Guido's 1963 book 'Sardinia, Ancient Peoples and Places' and found a number of websites offering various degrees of information on the island and it's prehistory. What really fired my imagination were the wonderful photographs of the Tombi dei Giganti in Mr Cope's The Megalithic European. I had an awareness of Sardinian prehistory from the various books I have read but these books generally concentrated on the Nuraghe and the Well Temples with the occasional mention of Bronze statues. Mr Cope's book was different; he had pictures of beautiful megalithic tombs with a crescent shaped facades. I knew this was a place I had to visit.
My trip to Sardinia was essentially a family holiday with a few visits to ancient sites fitted in so it was therefore was never going to be to be anything more than a taster of the island but I didn't really care, I was going to Sardinia.

My first outing into the Sardinian countryside started in the usual fitzcoraldo way. I got lost! This turned out to be quite a fortuitous experience as it put me straight into the mountains on the road from Trinita d'Agultu to Tempio Pausania. Basically you wind your way up into the mountains and then all of a sudden you drop down into a fantastic surreal landscape. A valley of the giants, imagine a valley peppered with dozens of supersized versions of Brimham Rocks, groves of windswept trees growing at 45 degrees, hilltop villages perched beneath huge bizarrely weathered rocks. This was more than a landscape, a dreamscape would be a more apt title.

Pascaredda.
This was my first Sardinian site. It's location on the Tempio to Calganius road is pretty much where Julian Cope describes it in the Megalithic European, unfortunately, due to Ryanairs meagre baggage allowance, I didn't have the book with me and the site wasn't on my map so I came across it by accident. Fortunately for me the Sardinians are pretty good at signposting their ancient monuments.
To reach the site you have to walk down a country lane and along a path on the edge of a field, you then cross over a fairly dodgy looking wooden bridge and the site is just in front of you in a cork wood. That sounds fairly straight forward, as it is, but the walk is absolutely beautiful and a great introduction to the sounds and smells of the Sardinian countryside, it also grounds you in a landscape ringed by sharp, craggy mountains with the Monte Limbara peaks rising to over 1300 metres.
Pascaredda is beautiful, you approach the site from the rear so the first thing I noticed was how neatly the stone capped mound fitted into the surrounding valley. As I moved around the mound the horned façade and forecourt came into view. The rocks of the façade had a definite pink tinge to them which would be something I would also encounter at Li Longhi. The carved portal stone is large but not huge, the proportions and symmetry of the monument are perfect and the carving is beautifully executed. After sitting and taking in the fact that I was actually here, I began to mooch around the mound and passageway. The mound appears to be constructed of small cobbles and earth. One of the cap stones had been removed from the passage, so I was able to slip down into the passage with relative ease. The passage was orientated east-west and was constructed in a dry stone style. It was interesting to note that the passage was independent of the façade, by this I mean that the large carved portal stone had been placed over an existing portal and the passage may have originally been a self-contained unit. This could imply that the façade was added at a later date. The rear (west) end of the chamber had a bench-like structure constructed by placing a large slab horizontally across the back of the chamber. Another feature, which was to become areoccurring theme in the monuments I visited in Sardinia, was the use of water/wind eroded stones in the monuments.
Pascaredda was my first Tomba dei Giganti and I think it will always remain my favourite. It just all fits in so well, the walk to the site, the intact mound, the tomb, the lovely façade, the nearby stream, the mountains, Perfect!
The next site on my list was Coddu Vecchiu

Coddu Vecchiu
Coddu Vecchiu is signposted on the Tempio to Arzachena road. As with Pascaredda, if you approach this site from the west you will be travelling through a beautiful and bizarre landscape passing peaks with boulder strewn ridges and valleys with huge monoliths that appear to have been thrust upwards through the earth by the hand of some unseen orogenic deity. I wrote in my note book "these rocks must have names". Even the modern quarries chop away the hillsides to create the appearance of stepped pyramids.
Coddu Vecchiu is served by a car park. There is a small visitor's centre in the car park where you can purchase a ticket for the monument, buy an ice cream, a cold drink or use the toilet.
Tip No.1– Sardinians are obsessed with change, in the monetry sense, so keep plenty in your pocket. That said, I managed to score a free ice cream at Coddu Vecchiu because the very nice lady behind the counter did not want to lose her change, despite having lots in her till.
The site is just a short walk from the car park and approaches the site looking towards the forecourt. If you can manage to take your eyes off this beautiful site you should check out the lovely large, squat, weather-worn rock outcrops to the left of the path to the monument.
The Monument is stunning and sits in a low valley on an elevated hillside surrounded on one side by scrub land and the other by strictly regimented lines of grape vines running like contour corduroy across the hillside. It would be nice to think that this arrangement stretched back to the origins of the monument. As we know, many megalithic monuments were deliberately sited within liminal areas on the edge of farmland, one foot in the wild and one in the cultivated fields perhaps symbolising the continuity between past and the present. In his book 'The Bronze Age in Barbarian Europe' Jacques Briard describes the Sardinian central stelae as; "the sacred stone in front of the kingdom of the dead was visible from afar and reminded the living, at work in the nearby fields, of the frailty of human life".
It is the central stone or stelae which draws the eye here. This design of stelae is known as a bilithon, a two piece stone. Once again there is a pink tinge to the rock which is enhanced by a vein of pink crystal running downwards at approximately 45 degrees from the top left hand corner of the bottom stone. Later I was to visit the Neolithic cemetery of Il Muri where large amounts of ochre were found in the cists. This set me to wondering if this use of reddish/pink stone and the use of ochre were linked over the millennia between the erection of the monuments. Perhaps red was a colour associated with death. Marija Gimbutas has this to say about the use of ocre "Red was the colour of life, of blood, which was neccessary to secure regeneration".
My first impression of the monument was that this Tombi definitely had a different architect to Pascaredda. It's well worth having a detailed look at the stones of the façade. The central stelae have been beautifully carved. The carving borders the lower stone and extends around the outside edge of the upper stone. Care has also been taken to carve around the small portal at the base of the stone. The carving had also been applied to the back of the stelae, presumably after the two stones were united and erected.
The stone to the right of the stelae has a natural channel carved into it that runs from ground level to the side of the stelae, the final stone of the left hand horn of the façade has a natural cup in its face. I'm sure these features would have not gone unnoticed by such accomplished masons as the Tombi builders and once again we see the use of weather worn stone in the construction of a monument.
The monument we see today is a stripped-down version of the original. Many years ago when the monument was excavated the archaeologists didn't believe that the stone cairn that covered it was actually part of the structure so they removed it.
The passage of the monument is aligned east-west and unlike Pascaredda is constructed of large stone slabs on the interior (visible) passage and thick, dry stone walling on the exterior (unseen) walls. The passage also differs from Pascaredda in its layout. There is no 'bench on the back wall and the side slabs butt straight onto the central stelae. There is also a large slab on the floor of the chamber marking a small step down in the passage just before the stelae, creating a small anti chamber behind the small portal at the base of the stelae. Perhaps this was the place for offerings.
In summary, Coddu Vecchiu is a beautiful Tombi dei Giganti sitting in a lovely landscape. It is well signposted and judging from the day we went, and its close proximity to a main road, can be quite busy.
The next site on my list was Li Longhi, this site is no more than a 15 minute drive away from Coddu Vecchiu. The drive is along a long, narrow dusty road and is one of the places where you're pretty sure you've taken the wrong turning and just as you're thinking about turning back, you find yourself at the monument.

Li Longhi
Once again this is a sign posted site with a car park and a small booth from where you can buy tickets for the monument. On my visit, I had the good fortune to find a guide here who spoke very good English and had recently spent 3 months in Newbury.
Tip No.2 – If the service is available, pay the extra Euro for the guide, they are usually very knowledgeable and generally keen to speak English, they also carry folders containing illustrations, details of finds and general information about the sites.
Li Longhi is a fascinating site situated on a prominent hill. Like Pasceradda the tumulus remains intact and the monument has undergone some restoration. The path to the monument is only short and you approach it from the front. The first thing you notice is the stelae, it's huge and it's broken. The repair job on the stelae reminds me of my own attempts to repair things at home. They've just taken the huge lump that fell off and clagged it back on, it's pretty unsympathetic but it works and restores the stelae to it's original height. The stone to the right of the stelae is also a replacement.
The passage is a little confusing until you realise that this monument developed in 3 stages. The first stage of the monument was the construction of a dolmen, the remains of which form the rear of the passage. The dolmen was constructed, during the period of the Bonannaro Culture usingrough stone slabs placed on the original ground surface. The second stage of the monument was the construction of an allee couverte or passage; this was dug into the bedrock. The walls of the passage were constructed using a mixture of large slabs and dry stone walling, a mound/tumulus/cairn of stones was also constructed at this point. The final phase of the monument was the addition of the horned façade.
Within the passage, the dolmen was separated from the rest of the monument by a
blocking slab and a bench, as at Pascaredda.
There is only one capstone insitu on the passage, my guide informed me that the archaeologists have speculated as to whether the passage was actually capped with removable wooden planking to allow access. What intrigued me was what happened to the capstone of the dolmen. I wonder if it was reused in the construction of the passage or perhaps in the horned façade of the monument.
My guide also informed me that Roman and Greek writers had witnessed and recorded how the Tombi were still being used when they had visited Sardinia. There are written accounts describing people sitting on a bench-like structure attached to the horned façade of the monument whilst rituals took place within the area defined by the facade.
Li Longhi is well worth a visit, when combined with a visit to Cuddu Vecchiu and the Necropili di li Muri. It provides insight into the development of the wonderful Tombi dei Giganti in this part of the island.

Necropili de Li Muri
Li Muri is about a ten minute drive from Li Longhi. Drive past the site and park in the car park on the hill. Walk back up the hill and buy a ticket at the small hut. Once again I was able to use the guide who also spoke excellent English and had a deep love of this site.
This Neolithic necropolis should have a ring of familiarity about it to anyone who has read about or visited British prehistoric burial sites. The site is not large but it is full to the brim with archaeology. The site is neatly 'tucked in' amongst numerous rocky outcrops with views over the surrounding valleys.
Basically what you have here are five cist burials, four of the burials date to about 4500BP, the fifth cist dates to a later pre-Nuraghic culture. There are also a number of standing stones or Betyls, and small cist-like boxes that 'were used for offerings'.
The four Neolithic cists are surrounded by a number of small concentric circles and were originally covered by an earth mound or cairn with only the outer kerb showing. The cists were orientated north–south and when excavated yeilded a rich crop of distinctive grave goods including obsidian arrowheads, polished axes, maceheads, flint knives, pottery, soapstone necklaces and a steatite bowl which may be of Cretan origin.
The fifth, and later, cist is aligned roughly east-west and was also covered by a cairn.
My guide was extremely enthusiastic about the site and went to great lengths to explain many aspects of Sardinian prehistory including the trade in Obsidian throughout the Mediterranean. Sardinian obsidian was the best in Europe and Galluran obsidian was the best in Sardinia. She was also very keen on Irish archaeology having just spent seven months living in Galway.
One thing that struck me about the site was a large outcrop of weathered granite on the margins of the site. For me the rock almost seemed part of the site and on closer inspection I noticed a number of weathered depressions and natural bowls within it's structure. I tried to discuss this with the guide and how the people who built the monument could have easily chosen a rock-free site in the adjacent field. But she only smiled and said that we can only discuss the facts of the site. I did however detect a knowing look in her smile or maybe I was kidding myself, perhapsshe just pitied me for my wide eyed ramblings. She did inform me that the local rocks, some of which are weathered into the most bizarre shapes, contained rock shelters. Some of these shelters had been excavated and yielded early pottery.
The necropolis of Li Muri reminded me of home. There are definite parallels with sites on the North York Moors such as Obtrusch and round barrows and cairns in many other parts of our islands.

Conclusions

I suppose it's a bit arrogant to try and draw any meaningful conclusions after seeing just three Tombi dei Giganti and one Neolithic cemetery but I guess I should write down a few thoughts if only to start a debate and have them ripped to pieces when someone else looks at a few more of these wonderful monuments and comes up with some better ideas.
The three Tombi dei Giganti I visited had followed the same basic design, orientation east-west, a long passageway, no chambers and an elaborate forecourt but I also observed that there were differences in the choice of location within the landscape, construction methods, levels of carving and other subtlties of architecture between the three.
Much is made of the crescent design of the forecourt and the possibility that it is symbolically linked to a bull cult. We must remember that this type of forecourt is not only common in Sardinia. There are many horn or crescent shaped forecourts throughout our own islands and beyond. The court tombs of Ireland e.g. Ballymacdermot, the Clyde tombs of Scotland, the Cotswold Seven tombs, the horned cairns of Caithness e.g. Grey Cairns of Camster even the Street House site on the North York Moors. When I first saw Pascaredda from the front I was reminded of Cairnholy. Could I be so bold as to say it is a common design? and why shouldn't it be? Basically what this design provides is a place for the living to meet each other in the presence of the ancestors. What the Sardinians did was take this basic design and add some unique Sardinian flavour to it just as many other people have done in their own monuments. I have read that the forecourts of the Tombi with the false portal represent the transition from life to death. I would like to think that the stones of the forecourt also reflect the Galluran landscape, with it's boulder ridges and craggy peaks. To quote Richard Bradley "monuments can be landscapes and landscapes may be monuments".
What the basic design may show is that people throughout Europe and beyond may have been thinking in a similar way about the cycle of life and death and applying those ideas to their monuments. The same process continues today, we still erect elaborate large stone monuments to the great and the good, Prominent members of society usually get large grave markers whilst the less prominent get smaller markers. We still congregate at these monuments to remember and celebrate our ancestors, we still bury our dead in communal cemeteries and we still bring offerings to the grave, long after the person has died.
When I was training for my current job my mentor made me recite a daily mantra, "common things are common", I think the same rules may apply here.

One thing that did confuse me initially in Sardinia was the dating of everything. I would look at the Tombi and think Neolithic, see a Nuraghe and think Iron Age. I had trouble getting my head around the fact that the builders of the Nuraghe were also the builders of the Tombi dei Giganti. I guess this was due to the baggage I carry around. I was trying to relate everything back to my own experience. I found the process of coming to terms with the chronology of these and other sites challenging, disorientating and amusing.
On the other hand, we need some form of perspective even if it's too say that there is no connection betwen the megalithic monuments of Sardina and the islands of Britain. Especially if we want to try and gain some understanding of the role that we, on our little islands on the very edge of Europe, played in prehistory. We need to get out and look at these monuments.
We need to understand that our ancestors had a different perspective to our modern, some would say, blinkered world-view. Our ancestors did not view the sea as a barrier but as a highway, a major route of communication fostering the exchange of knowlege and beliefs, trade and the sharing of new technologies.
If we accept this then we can assume that our British and Irish ancestors may well have visited these places and that Sardinians may have visited our islands.

Pascaredda — Images

03.10.07ce
<b>Pascaredda</b>Posted by fitzcoraldo

Pascaredda — Fieldnotes

03.10.07ce
This was my first Sardinian site. It's location on the Tempio to Calganius road is pretty much where Julian Cope describes it in the Megalithic European, unfortunately, due to Ryanairs meagre baggage allowance, I didn't have the book with me and the site wasn't on my map so I came across it by accident. Fortunately for me the Sardinians are pretty good at signposting their ancient monuments.
To reach the site you have to walk down a country lane and along a path on the edge of a field, you then cross over a fairly dodgy looking wooden bridge and the site is just in front of you in a cork wood. That sounds fairly straight forward, as it is, but the walk is absolutely beautiful and a great introduction to the sounds and smells of the Sardinian countryside, it also grounds you in a landscape ringed by sharp, craggy mountains with the Monte Limbara peaks rising to over 1300 metres.
Pascaredda is beautiful, you approach the site from the rear so the first thing I noticed was how neatly the stone capped mound fitted into the surrounding valley. As I moved around the mound the horned façade and forecourt came into view. The rocks of the façade had a definite pink tinge to them which would be something I would also encounter at Li Longhi. The carved portal stone is large but not huge, the proportions and symmetry of the monument are perfect and the carving is beautifully executed. After sitting and taking in the fact that I was actually here, I began to mooch around the mound and passageway. The mound appears to be constructed of small cobbles and earth. One of the cap stones had been removed from the passage, so I was able to slip down into the passage with relative ease. The passage was orientated east-west and was constructed in a dry stone style. It was interesting to note that the passage was independent of the façade, by this I mean that the large carved portal stone had been placed over an existing portal and the passage may have originally been a self-contained unit. This could imply that the façade was added at a later date. The rear (west) end of the chamber had a bench-like structure constructed by placing a large slab horizontally across the back of the chamber. Another feature, which was to become a occurring theme in the monuments I visited in Sardinia, was the use of water/wind eroded stones in the monuments.
Pascaredda was my first Tomba dei Giganti and I think it will always remain my favourite. It just all fits in so well, the walk to the site, the intact mound, the tomb, the lovely façade, the nearby stream, the mountains, Perfect!

Li Muri — Fieldnotes

03.10.07ce
Li Muri is about a ten minute drive from Li Longhi. Drive past the site and park in the car park on the hill. Walk back up the hill and buy a ticket at the small hut. Once again I was able to use the guide who also spoke excellent English and had a deep love of this site.
This Neolithic necropolis should have a ring of familiarity about it to anyone who has read about or visited British prehistoric burial sites. The site is not large but it is full to the brim with archaeology. The site is neatly 'tucked in' amongst numerous rocky outcrops with views over the surrounding valleys.
Basically what you have here are five cist burials, four of the burials date to about 4500BP, the fifth cist dates to a later pre-Nuraghic culture. There are also a number of standing stones or Betyls, and small cist-like boxes that 'were used for offerings'.
The four Neolithic cists are surrounded by a number of small concentric circles and were originally covered by an earth mound or cairn with only the outer kerb showing. The cists were orientated north–south and when excavated yielded a rich crop of distinctive grave goods including obsidian arrowheads, polished axes, mace heads, flint knives, pottery, soapstone necklaces and a steatite bowl which may be of Cretan origin.
The fifth, and later, cist is aligned roughly east-west and was also covered by a cairn.
My guide was extremely enthusiastic about the site and went to great lengths to explain many aspects of Sardinian prehistory including the trade in Obsidian throughout the Mediterranean. Sardinian obsidian was the best in Europe and Galluran obsidian was the best in Sardinia. She was also very keen on Irish archaeology having just spent seven months living in Galway.
One thing that struck me about the site was a large outcrop of weathered granite on the margins of the site. For me the rock almost seemed part of the site and on closer inspection I noticed a number of weathered depressions and natural bowls within its structure. I tried to discuss this with the guide and how the people who built the monument could have easily chosen a rock-free site in the adjacent field. But she only smiled and said that we can only discuss the facts of the site. I did however detect a knowing look in her smile or maybe I was kidding myself, perhaps she just pitied me for my wide eyed ramblings. She did inform me that the local rocks, some of which are weathered into the most bizarre shapes, contained rock shelters. Some of these shelters had been excavated and yielded early pottery.
The necropolis of Li Muri reminded me of home. There are definite parallels with sites on the North York Moors such as Obtrusch and round barrows and cairns in many other parts of our islands.
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
26th August 2005ce
Edited 12th October 2005ce

Underwhelmed, Yet Intrigued

Underwhelmed, Yet Intrigued


Only Here For The Beer . . . And Bronze Age

After spending a delightful weekend with friends in deepest Powys, we decided to wend our way home along a gloriously scenic route, taking in Clun, Bishops Castle, and, most importantly, Mitchell's Fold stone circle. However, the first stop was to be the Three Tuns in Bishops Castle, a pub with the happy privilege of having its own brewery adjoining the premises.

Four pumps of cracking real ale were on offer, and things got even better when we learnt they did carry-outs into the bargain. There was nothing for it but to leave with a pop bottle full of the Three Tun's seasonal Solstice bitter, the intention being to quaff it in the centre of the circle whilst watching a late August sunset over Wales.

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful afternoon weather, a hefty cloud bank had been steadily moving in towards us, and by the time we parked up at the bottom of the track leading to the site, everything was becoming a tad murky.

We walked up the track, which led onto a close-cropped, sheep-filled moor, the only noises being the warm wind and the constant bleating of lambs on the opposite hill. Swathes of bracken lined each side of the track, and after about a five minute walk, the arresting Kate spotted the first of the fifteen-odd stones, a fairly stumpy one, just past the information plaque.

Is That It?

I had heard several accounts of visits to this circle, and had wanted to explore it for sometime, especially as it seems to be the most significant site in the region. Sadly, I was totally underwhelmed when actually arriving after an anticipation-filled journey. It was at least half the size I had expected; I imagined it would be on the same scale as either the Druid's Circle, Castlerigg, Gors Fawr, Moel ty Uchaf or The Rollright Stones. It seemed fairly sparse in comparison, and therefore, quite disappointing when matched against these other hilly circles.

Of course, this may have been in no considerable part because of the awful gloaming, which was sucking the light and colour out of the entire landscape. The whole of the countryside was smothered in an oppressive, cheerless grey, more reminiscent of November than August. Matters weren't improved when I realised the beer was back down the track in the car. Still, there was no spectacular sunset with which to enjoy such quality ale.

Shropshire's Goddess

What was outstanding – and nothing but a pitch-black, moonless night would obscure this – was the landscape of Corndon Hill and surrounding hills. Mitchell's Fold lies in the shadow of the Godddess, in the shape of Corndon Hill. The impact of this vast landscape deity rising above the diminutive circle is quite something. I was immediately put in mind of the 'Sleeping Beauty' near Callanish, and wondered if a similar phenomena of a full moon travelling along the swelling, fertile body occurred at this site. Although I didn't have any accurate method of determining east, I figured the likelihood of this happening was very strong indeed.

Magnetic as the Goddess of Corndon Hill was, the hill directly below the circle to the south also suggested a powerful part to play in the cycle of life and death, for it appeared to be nothing more than a gigantic, natural, long barrow. Additionally, the views from this direction are utterly stunning. The country rolls gently into the distance for miles and miles, and even the lowering skies couldn't diminish the spectacular nature of this vista; what it would be to see it at dawn on a clear day!

Ennui

Kate made a couple of circuits round the circle before walking back to the car, equally as disappointed in the circle as I had been. I wandered round a few of times, taking in the location, and trying to work out whether some of the recumbent stones were intentionally so, as the plaque suggested. I'm sure the tall one to the east and its fallen sister were some kind of gateway for the views to the west. Interestingly, the 'long barrow' hill almost disappears when seen from this position; it's only when one crosses to the western edge of the circle that its shape becomes clear.

After a bit more tramping about, sitting in the chair-like stone (which was nice), and stroking the two tallest stones while admiring their lovely sharp edges, the rock smooth and warm from the day's sun, the dark grey night began to close in with a sombre melancholy that I could bear no longer. Striding out with purpose, I joined Kate on the journey back to the car, wanting home and a warm bed.

I would like to return to this site on a clear evening, though, with a picnic and a planisphere for later – and next time, I won't forget the beer!
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
24th August 2005ce

Aberdeenshire at last!

Aberdeenshire at last!


Although my Megalithic visits pre-dated the publication of The Modern Antiquarian by eight years, I never quite realised just how much was there was in Aberdeenshire, until I read TMA. . or indeed, just how different the Aberdeenshire monuments are from anything else in the UK.
And that's what makes TMA such a great book.
Cope's enthusiasm for these sites in the TMA TV show had me whipped up into megalith styled frenzy. I too wanted to visit all those circles and see the sacred hill of Dunnideer.
So, I set a few days aside in June 2005. Me & my red van again, off in search of old stones. Got my Burl Books, the TMA, maps, money. . yea. . I'm off!!
----
I drove up in a day, from Wolverhampton. And it took the day, but I did stop over to see Long Meg. Only ten minutes off the M6 and you're in heaven! The weather was glorious, and I found Little Meg and her spirals for the first time too, a lovely, almost secret site.
Got to Findon, by the coast, just three miles below Aberdeenshire about 11pm. I stopped here for the next two nights and found it an excellent base for fieldwork. As I sat supping Jack Daniels in my Findon digs I looked once again at the OS maps I had pored over since early last year. There were a few circles right by Findon.
I'm stopping right by a place called Stonehaven too . . Yea, bring it on!
--
Day One.
I was at Craighead Stone Circle before 9am. But it certainly wasn't a classic RSC like I'd been dreaming about. In fact, looking at the sorry state of the four stones left standing, and the metal rings attached to them, one wonders what they were used for, and even if their prehistoric rating is earned. But it's easy to get to, and encased within a dry stone wall, in view of JCBs at the adjoining industrial estate, it's an odd site.
Next up - Cairnwell. Behind a secluded house. I asked the house owner if I could take a look, and he was only too pleased to let me. He told me his wife found the circle in the seventies, and it was officially verified by the monument bods. It's one of the last stone circles to be given official status.
It's ruined, but you can still see the recumbent, (facing SSW) and a couple of standing stones.
On my way back, the house owner showed me plans of which stones the surveyor thought were in the circle. I was chuffed to see my initial thoughts were mirrored on the blueprint. A good visit that left me enthused, but I knew Aberdeenshire was yet to show me its true Megalithic goodies.
I decided to go for broke and visit East(er) Aquhorthies, that legendary site that must surely be the most famous of the Scottish RSCs.
--
It didn't disappoint, and the sun shone and there was the sea, (you can see it from this circle. No-one ever seems to mention these things!). What a fantastic site. And there's the recumbent, with the flankers, like Devil's horns. Majestic. Yea, welcome to Aberdeenshire! Now we're cooking with gas!
A worker for the coucil was painting the fence at East Aqourthies. He was having his tea break, he'd bought a flask. He told me how the smallest stone, facing the recumbent, is always warmer than the rest of the stones.
As I left him, supping his tea, with his face in the sun, alone at East Aquhorthies. I thought, has he the best job in the world today?
--
Off to Loanhead Of Daviot. Another showcase circle, and like Easter, it's signposted. These are the two the tourist visit.
But how hip a tourist to visit these great wonders?
And there. . in the distance, is Dunnideer. And I'm in the picture on page two of TMA. The amount of times I've looked at that picture. .
Just to the right of that picture, is a field in which Newcraig stands. And please go to it, don't just look from the road, because behind the recumbent, over the fence, is a wooded area where stones still stand. Eerie, as wooded standing stones often seem to me. I felt almost hesitant to approach these stones. . a feeling I would encounter again later that week, at another site.
Aberdeenshire was shaping up nicely!
--
Old Rayne is ruined. All stones are fallen around, the Recumbent toppled, yet it was a great place for me that day. I lay on the recumbent, looking at my faithful red van, and Dunnideer in the background. I'd needed to put suntan lotion on, it was so hot. I wrote my notes, counted stones, watched a small plane fly over and wondered what used to go on at Old Rayne. A site often deemed as not worth visiting because of its ruined state.
Not worth visiting? I'd have told you different on this sunsplashed Scottish Monday morning, a Monday when I'd normally be fitting fireplaces in Wolverhampton. Because sometimes sites are not list ticking, measuring exercises. Sometimes you just feel like it's where you should be, and things fall into place very nicely indeed.
--
It's hot, I need a mapcheck. I need protein, I need beer.
Insch is the nearest village to Dunnideer. There's a pub. It's amazing! straight out a 70's sitcom. Wooden panels, ABBA on the jukebox, strange looks from the locals. . love it!
I have a pint or two of bitter, Fats Domino comes on the jukebox and once again I'm in heaven.
--
I'm at Stonehead. It's an RSC without the circle, but it's right by the road and it's dominated by Dunnideer.
And I'm looking at Dunnideer, I'm gonna climb up there soon. I've seen some wonders, but still the greatest treats of Megalithic Aberdeenshire were yet to greet me.
Hatton Of Ardoyne takes some finding. You have to park at a private house and walk. I asked permission and the lady was most helpful. The site is slightly ruined, one flanker is down, but in an amazing position. It was blazing hot here, and I could see for miles.
Wherever possible, I paced out the diameter of the circles, and every one was between 18 & 23 paces. And at every one, the recumbent faced the same (general) direction. There's a design to these places that is quite amazing.
I found Wantonwells RSC, and was surprised to see it almost completely overgrown! Then Inchfield, which is a treck across a field to see a ruined site.

Wantonwells — Images

01.07.05ce
<b>Wantonwells</b>Posted by suave harv

I knocked at the farm by Sunhoney and asked to see the circle. They couldn't have been more helpful. The circle is behind the farm, in a small patch of trees, and wow! it was fantastic. I sat there for a while. The sun was streaming through the trees and I could hear the kids from the farm playing. Sunhoney was my favourite circle of day one.

Midmar Kirk is not far from Sunhoney. It's a well known circle because it's behind a church. Very odd, but well worth a visit.
I stopped at Cullerie on the way back. This is very near the road, and an avenue of trees act as a pathway to the circle - which isn't a standard RSC.
--

Sunhoney — Images

20.08.05ce
<b>Sunhoney</b>Posted by suave harv

Day Two
I had seen Tyrebagger on the hill during my first day, but decided to make the treck up the hill on day two. I had seen thirteen circles on my first day, now I could afford to take it easier, and enjoy just being in Aberdeenshire.
Tyrebagger is something else! High on a hill, overlooking Aberdeen's airport. Park at the bungalows and walk up the lane. It's worth it. I'm not too much up with the new ageisms, but if ever I were to describe a site powerful, this would be it. The flankers are enormous!
The recumbent is toppled, but wow! I liked Tyrebagger. They weren't kidding when they built this baby!

Tyrebagger — Images

20.08.05ce
<b>Tyrebagger</b>Posted by suave harv

Yesterday I had a 'stovie', which is mashed up potatoes, veg a corned beef, in a cup. Salty and warm, and just the job when you're peckish. Today I went traditional, Sausage sandwich from a roadside cafe. I eat it in Tyrebagger woods, where there might be red squirrels.
I took a trip round Dunnideer, and visited the Churchyard of Kirkton On Culsarmond, where there once was a circle. The Church looks to be a private dwelling now.
I had nowhere to sleep that night, so RSCs had to wait whilst I found digs. I headed north to Macduff, which is an fishing village, but it had a pub with B&B overlooking the harbour, so that's me sorted.
Spent the rest of day in pub. Cheers!
Haggis and chips later, and I fall into a blissful sleep, waking only occasionally by the sound of pissed up fishermen fighting.
Day Three.
My notes call this site Castle Fraser, but everyone knows it as Balkagor. And it's in a field completely overgrown.
I walked up Dunnideer. It's a hard walk, (it's a very steep hill!) but it was worth it. Imagine how many RSCs you could see from here if you had a powerful enough telescope! I could see Sunhoney through my binoculars, and the spot where Dunnydeer Stone Circle is, but that's all.
There's a lot made of Dunnideer's importance to the ancients. It seems to stem from the fact that the hill is easily recognisable from so many RSCs. Well, it is, but is that because it's so recognisable anyway? With its Glastonbury Tor type tower on top?
Yea, you can see it all around, but you can see so many other hills too. But the one you recognise - is Dinnideer. Because, well, it's just so recognisable.
Anyway, I went up it and loved it.
I visited Cothimere Wood next, and found this circle to be very intimidating, (yea, it looks silly writing it down, but you go, on your own, you'll see!). What a fantastic site! Massive Tyrebagger type flankers. And I think it's the woodland around it that gives it that eerie feel. I didn't know it was Cothymere wood circle until I saw it, it's not called that on the OS map.
Old Keig is visable from the road. I walked to it, it's ruined but worthwhile. Again, it's set in rolling hills.
Had a pint outside a Hotel in Alford (blazing sun, I was lucky), before an unsuccessful attempt to find North Strone RSC. I walked miles, got ripped to shreds in gorse, but did at least get to see a beautiful Bambi type young deer darting through the woods.
THhere's a ruined circle at Druidsfield, on the OS map. I found only two standing stones. The lady farmer told me they are 'entrance stones' or 'pointers' for a nearby circle (Keig?).
I found Rhynie stone circle (remains of). Two stones in a field. I was running out of steam I thought, so I drove to Tomenaverie. A site worth visiting, and around it, some of the nisest scenery I got to see in Aberdeenshire.
--
I had more Haggis in Macduf, this time at a restaurant, and was once again serenaded by the night-time sounds of drunk thugs and their wailing girlfriends.
Day Four
Had Macduf even one glimmer of charm, I might have stayed another night, but as I stepped over the puke and beer cans to get in my van, I thought I'd head home after visiting the ArchaeolinkCenter. Which was very good, it had mock up Neolithic houses, and even its own (mock-up) RSC!
http://www.archaeolink.co.uk/
I had another pint in Insch, said goodbye to Stonehead and Dunnideer, and started the six hour drive back to the Black Country.
Favourites - Tyrebagger and Sunhoney.
Failures - The two at Aquhorthies (seen from road only) and North Strone.
Best food - Haggis and Chips in Macduff
Cheers!
suave harv Posted by suave harv
19th August 2005ce
Edited 20th August 2005ce

ORPHIR FOLLOW UP August 1st 2005

ORPHIR FOLLOW UP August 1st 2005


Though the steatite cinerary urn (HY30NE 17) is described as having been found south of Highbreck before 1935 actually it came from left of the unused ground between Haybreck and the road, precise directions giving it at HY35750643 as shown by CANMAP itself (par for the course - the Broch of Lingro is in an area north of Lingro according to the O.S. in 1977 but actually lies eastward, being only fractionally further north in longtitude !). I always suspected there might be something about the bumps around here and now I knew that the glacial till from which it came is the mound cut through by road. Clued in I had made the connection finally. Nothing is said of how the urn was found, we can rule out road-widening and the 'modern' building of the cottage itself having had a hand. No trace of anything there now. About the same distance from the findspot as that is from the edge of Highbreck's rough ground is the site I had seen before, the earthwork with the chicken feeder. So that places it at HY35700640. To say that it could be at the end of a production of glacial till does not make it natural, it must have been very easy to dig into as evidenced by finds elsewhere about here. Could it relate to the (presumably Viking) urn ? For some reason the places and finds in Orphir seem pre-eminently. Or could it just be they have taken too fully the archaeologists' fancy, explaining the disdain for the Graystane maybe. Between that and the cist findspot at Nearhouse 'new house' lies a field centrally occupied by a building called Sweanabow 'the Bu of Sweyn', which seems strange as there is Swanbister below. But here nothing of note is apparent and the disparity between IIRC 'farm' and 'farm-settlement' remains.

Next stop that mysterious cuboid by the 'cottage' connected to Nealand. My hopes were high because the vegetation was virtually dry. I wanted to take measuerments, check for possible pipes, take a close look to uncover the function. But when I crossed over the dyke high nettles denied me access - I am not even sure that they were there last time, now that a summer of sorts had finally arrived things were shooting up week by week like something out of a John Wyndham story. At least there were no nettles in the space between the 'tank' and the building. No sign of anything going between them or any pipes. Which for the moment leaves me with an object looking in the region of a metre or so long and under half that across, composed of finely coursed drystane walling topped by a thick flag. The stone is like an horizontal 'standing stone'. A bit more intriguing detail on this with a shallow rectangular cut in the middle of the side towards the building; this about a third of the stone's length, sides in a 4:3 ratio on the photo and roughly a couple of inches deep.

Down to the Bu of Orphir road. Lookiing out for a quarry somewhere on the right. Orkney's 'quarries' are as plentiful and confusing as the 'wells'. They're all over the county. What look like quarries can appear on the map as rock outcrops and vice versa, and sometimes what is on the ground isn't noted at all. Then there is the subtle difference between a place from which material is quarried and one that is only a quarry. So I look at quarries and such to make sure I miss nothing. Didn't see it anyway as far as I could tell. Nice stones along the roadway. What I thought to be possibly one of my 'flatface-aligned standing stone pairs' wasn't as they were far too close and there was a third stone at right angles. Some setup. And the stone I had seen loose by the farm was undistinguished.
At the Earl's Bu went to the bit with the mill channel and looked for anything at the stream to no avail. Further towards the sea, by the churchyard, there is stonework along the banks for a few metres. Nothing to say it couldn't be pre-Viking of course, it definitely isn't a wall associated with the mill as I have seen many Orcadian examples and they are all perpendicular.

From the churchyard took the Breck coastal path - The Breck being another stretch of 'broken' hillside like Breckna. Along the path you come to a place where a length of drystane wall still stands tall and covered with much pale-green (iunless you know better ?) lichen. Of course I chose to walk the shore below the cliffs for as long as was possible. From this viewpoint you can see how precarious the wall sits by the very edge of the cliff. And from this side every stone is thoroughly decorated by the soft 'staghorns' of that 3D lichen. Take a photo or two. On the shore you can see the sea-blackened length of a stone wall. One hesitated to call it a field-wall at the bottom of those cliffs. You see many of them stretching out to sea in Orkney, made up mostly of slabs on edge, and they look so primaeval that you are never 100% sure whether or no they are natural. With this one you feel safer about the artificiality as several stones stand up tall and vertical within it. Take several more photos. Alongside you can make out a broad shallow depression going down to the sea. Is the edge by the wall natural or man-altered ? Either way you can certainly imagine this as a slipway, with boats tethered to those long stones. Then I reversed my steps to clamber up to the steps again.
Where the path goes landward one arrow points you to a bothy, going under a 'doorway' a lintel connecting two 'halves'. The way didn't appear to continue after it met the cliffside again. So back and up to the road. Made a mistake and went right where it ends in the houses. Hang a left and turn right at the sharp corner unless you wish to return to the Saga Centre. This way leads to the group of habitations at Gyre. Lush vegetation hid the waters either side bottom of the hill. There is a walk there through the plantation on the left but I wasn't sure if you were allowed - maybe another time. Being estranged from plentiful trees in Orkney it feels so good to walk up that hillside road arched over by them like a green way. Bliss. This way brings you up to the churchyard junction in Orphir village, sat down and had my pack lunch by the gardens there rather than on one of the picnic tables. Then walked back to Kirkwall.

Along the way I took up my binoculars to look at The Holm of Groundwater (named after site of a RC chapel on the hillside above) on the Loch of Kirbister. On this is an intriguing site (HY30NE 6 at HY37170814). I could see the oval island, now hidden totally in tall vegetation, along from the pier. Depite the lack of view I felt strongly reminded of the artificial islet on the Loch of Wasdale (supposed site of a chapel), only by report much reduced structures and ?without the causeway - it has occured to me lately that perhaps before the last few centuries, when antiquarians ascribed ancient non-rectangular structural mounds to brochs and their ilk by default, 'tradition' instead automatically thought them to be the site of chapels, which would explain the great amount of confusion about the nature of such sites.

More about the Holm. In 1870 Petrie went to it and traced a circular building and its entrance. This is an oval structure 8.5x6.5m of stones (some square) covered by turf that sits on the 1.7m high southern half of this 37x19m island. Around this are faint traces of an enclosure a short distance from water-level. In 1935 an edge-mounted slab could be seen on the western side.
wideford Posted by wideford
16th August 2005ce

Candidates for a 'castle' in Skaill, Sandwick

Candidates for a 'castle' in Skaill, Sandwick


The Orkney Statistical Account records for 1795 states merely that a castle could be seen on the West side of Skaill. The Castle of Snusgar appears as presently identified on a map of 1882. Alternatively local tradition places The Castle near Lenahowe, where that map shows the field near Linnahowe only as rough ground. The name Snusgar is no guide, what used to be 'field/enclosure of the projecting cliff' is now the whole area hereabouts.
Last year's excavation of the Castle of Snusgar site found plenty of evidence of metal-working but the only structure found is not firmly identified as evidence for habitation. This year they looked at the SE slope and turned up well defined stratigraphy of densely-packed stone layers (possibly from structures) between sand depositions, and evidence of kelp processing in more recent times (it is presently thought that the whole mound overlies much earlier archaeology). However investigations simultaneously at a mound across the track to Midstove have turned at least one decent habitation. As a Viking silver hoard came from the area between these mounds something of note could well still turn up more certainly pre-dating the late Viking/ early mediaeval period.
Tradition placed an old structure called The Castle near Lenahowe where now lies an extensive mound with no apparent pattern to the stone spread. A rectangular silage pit dug through one end uncovered no evidence of walls amongst the stones, the farmer reporting only ashes and old bones. At this end it is significantly higher. Unfortunately this has probably been built up by stones from the quarrying plus much later materials from elsewhere. Of course if the tradition were founded on fact this could simply have been a midden area.
On the other hand could the Knowe of Verron have been the 1795 castle, as it still isn't certainly a broch and has stones about the surface even now. Alongside the eastern side of the mound a line of earthfast boulders away goes down to the cliffs and looks like part of an enclosure boundary. Between the church road and Verron there are all the signs of a previous wall in front of the present one. But at the primitive bridge the size of the stones in the earth are two to three times the usual size. And in one area of this coastal stretch is an interesting stone spread.
My last candidate isn't on the archaelogical or topographical 'map'. A loop of road off the B9056 cuts off a piece of land opposite the Skaill Church. This hillside mound, for so it would seem to be, is a couple of metres high and is almost encircled by 'standing' stones. It sticks out like a sore thumb in its isolation and seems underused considering. Was this the original Snusgar ?
wideford Posted by wideford
10th August 2005ce
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