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Thu November 26 2020

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‘Ancient’ stone circle turns out to be modern replica

22 Jan 19 Archaeologists in Aberdeenshire have been disappointed to discover that a newly identified stone circle was built in the 1990s rather than thousands of years ago.

 Easter Aquhorthies is regarded as one of the best of the genuine recumbent stone circles in Aberdeenshire
Easter Aquhorthies is regarded as one of the best of the genuine recumbent stone circles in Aberdeenshire

They were initially excited about the addition of another recumbent stone circle to the many already identified in Aberdeenshire.

The site was reported to the council by the current owner of the farm on which it is located. Some unusual features were noted during its recording, including its small diameter, proportionately small stones and lack of an obvious associated cairn or kerb stones. There is however a huge amount of variation between recumbent stone circles so finding these kinds of differences was not initially a major cause for concern, said Aberdeenshire Council. It was therefore celebrated as being an authentic Recumbent Stone Circle by Adam Welfare of Historic Environment Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeology Service.

Research into the site continued but the ongoing analysis was cut short the former owner of the farm contacted Welfare to say that the stone circle had been built in the mid-1990s.

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Neil Ackerman, historic environment record assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story. That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community. I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed – while not ancient it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape.

“These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. For this reason we include any modern replicas of ancient monuments in our records in case they are later misidentified.”

Recumbent stone circles were constructed around 3,500-4,500 years ago and are unique to the north east of Scotland. Their defining feature is a large horizontal stone (the recumbent) flanked by two upright stones, usually situated between the south-east to south-west of the circle. They are well known and spread throughout the north east of Scotland. Aberdeenshire Council has published a guide to 10 of the best examples, including Easter Aquhorthies (pictured above).

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