Related Pages.

 

Stone Circles.

Archaeoastronomy.

Prehistoric Scotland.

Prehistoric Ireland.

 

 

Index of Ancient Sites.

Homepage.

 

 

 
 

 

Share/Bookmark

Homepage.

About Us.

A-Z Site Index.

Gift Shop.

Contact Us

 

   Recumbent Stone Circles: (R.S.C's)Old Keig, Scotland.

What makes these circles unique is the large 'recumbent' stone (often several tonnes in weight) which lies horizontally between two large 'flankers'. This is the recumbent. Typically the stones which made up the circle were graded so that they decreased in size away from the recumbent. The recumbent stone is invariably placed south-west of the circle or in the southern arc of the ring.

Research has shown that the orientation and the length of the recumbents suggests that they were meant as a 'frame for viewing the rising and setting of the moon at certain times'

 

 
   Recumbent Stone Circles:

What may be the earliest primitive version of a recumbent Stone Circle was identified in 2013 in the shape of a 10,000 year old arc of wooden post holes mirroring the function of the recumbent and flankers. The location of the monument places it in the same region, as the largest concentration of RSC's, which all lie on a latitude which offers a narrow distance between the moons extreme setting points, such that they can be easilty framed. Statistical analysis has shown that they have a clear association to prehistoric lunar observation.

In Aberdeenshire, with a mean latitude of 57° 30's, the moon at its maximum, will rise at 155° SSE, and set at 205° SSW. Of the 48 recumbents where it is possible to plot their axis, 45 have recumbent between these limits. The remaining were placed at 230°, 231° and 232°, the min moon setting.

 (Ref: Burl. Stone circles).

 

Article: (BBC: July, 2013).

'Earliest Lunar Calendar found in Scotland c. 8,000 BC'.

'Excavations of a field at Crathes Castle found a series of 12 pits which appear to mimic the phases of the moon and track lunar months. The pit alignment aligns on the Midwinter sunrise'.
(Link to Full article)

 

The earliest Recumbent stone circles (RSC's) are believed to date from around 3,000 BC (4) but they continued being constructed from the Neolithic to the Bronze age c.1,500 BC

Recumbent Stone circles are found predominantly in Aberdeenshire, north-east Scotland, but they are also evident in south-west Ireland, where instead of being designed to observe the 'Lunar' cycles, they were designed for Solar observation. (Drombeg stone circle near Glandore and Rosscarbery, Co. Cork).

In both cases, the recumbent stone is generally found on the south-western side of the circle. In the Scottish circles it is large and set between two tall uprights, known as flankers, that are normally the tallest stones in the circle. The heights of other stones tend to taper away as one goes round the circle, so that the smallest are found on the opposite, or north-eastern, side. In the Irish circles, on the other hand, the tapering works in the other direction; the recumbent stone is small and placed in isolation, and the tallest stones are normally a pair called portals on the opposite north-eastern side.

 

Aberdeenshire Recumbents:

The Recumbent Stone Circle (RSC) is Aberdeenshire's unique contribution to the tradition of erecting rings of standing stones which was current in certain parts of Britain and Ireland during the third and second millennia BC. Their place, function and role in prehistoric society has been variously speculated on, with ideas ranging from sacrificial altars to the now conclusively proven association with astronomy.

Over a hundred examples have been recorded, with diameters ranging from 18.2 m to 24.4 m.

The distinctive feature of the RSC is the massive slab, laid recumbent on its side in the south-western or southern arc of the ring, and flanked by the two tallest stones of the circle. The recumbents average 24 tons in weight and were carefully levered and chocked-up to ensure that their upper surface was as level as possible.

The Stone Recumbents and their flankers were carefully chosen and are generally of a different composition and colour to the rest. At Easter Aquhorthies, a few miles west of Inverurie, most of the stones are of pinkish porphyry but one is red jasper. They contrast with the light grey of the granite flankers and the red granite recumbent.

'There is also an association between recumbent stone circles and Scottish carved stone balls – echoing the carved chalk balls found at and around Stonehenge. Carved stone balls originate in Orkney and Aberdeenshire, and are associated with a style of pottery called Grooved Ware, which spread southwards throughout Britain. Most carved stone balls have geometric patterns of grooves carved across their surface, depicting a series of shapes known as the Platonic Solids or compound polyhedra. The number of bosses carved on the balls demonstrate these Neolithic people were able to count and use complex geometry. Recumbent stone circles and carved stone balls suggest that a group of people in north-east Scotland and Orkney were conversant with mathematics, geometry and astronomical alignments in a pre-literate context'. (3)

(More about The Scottish Stone Balls)

 

 

Irish Recumbents: Also called 'Axial Stone Circles (ASLs)

It is interesting to note that the only recumbent circles found outside of Scotland, are in the Ross-Carbery area of Ireland (SW), which places them too far south to make them any use as lunar observatories, and have in fact been shown to be solar in their orientation. Cope (4), makes note of the Drombeg RSC, where the sun has been observed setting at midwinter (solstice), directly into a notch in the landscape behind the recumbent stone.

 

Drombeg, Co Cork: Of the original 17 pillars of smooth-sided local sandstone erected in a circle of 9.5m (31ft) in diameter, only 13 remain. To the left of the north-east entrance is a portal stone 2.2m (7ft 2in) high; its opposite is the 1.9m (6ft 10in) long recumbent which has two egg-shaped cup-marks (one with a ring around it). The circle stones have been shaped to slope upwards to the recumbent itself. The midpoint of this stone was set in line with the winter solstice sunset.   (More about Drombeg)

Bohonagh, Co. Cork: Is comprised of 13 stones set in a circle (13 lunar months) with a diameter of 30 ft. Four out of the 13 stones are missing and three were re-erected after excavation. Two portal stones are set radially on an east-west axis to the recumbent stones and are 240 cm high. At just under 8 ft, these stone are among the tallest of any Irish stone circle. The axis from these stones to the large axial-stone on the west side, points to sunset at the equinoxes. Many of the stones have quartz inclusions and many small pieces of quartz are associated with the circle.

 

 

   Archaeoastronomy:

It is believed that the recumbent and flanking stones form a kind of false horizon or frame through which to view the rising or setting of the major standstill moon that occurs every 18.6 years. At that point, the moon dips towards the recumbent. On 12 of the RSCs, decoration in the form of cup-marks (cup-shaped hollows between 10 and 50 mm in diameter) have been found, clustering at points (the recumbent, flankers or immediately adjacent stones) where the major standstill moon rises or sets. (1) Their almost invariable function as 'lunar' calendars is one of the best evidences we have that Neolithic people were aware of the 18.6 year lunar cycle and observed it closely. It is now suggested that these RSC's were replicas of earlier Neolithic constructions. (5)

In Aberdeenshire, with a mean latitude of 57° 30's, the moon at its maximum, will rise at 155° SSE, and set at 205° SSW. Of the 48 recumbent's where it is possible to plot their axis, 45 have recumbent between these limits. The remaining were placed at 230°, 231° and 232°, the min moon setting. (Ref: Burl. Stone circles).

 

The latitude of the Aberdeenshire recumbents is such that the moon would have appeared to 'roll' along the surface of the recumbent stones at midsummer.

The Scottish RSCs are one of the most important local groups of monuments in Archaeoastronomy as they manifest a consistent symbolic relationship with the midsummer full moon. For a full discussion see APBI Chapter 5 up to p. 99. See also Aubrey Burl's The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (Yale University Press, 2000).

Rituals were conducted that included the breaking and scattering of white quartz lumps, perhaps reminiscent of moonlight. Scatters of white stone and particularly quartz, which are perceived in some human communities as reflecting or encapsulating the light of the moon, have been found around the base of the recumbent stone at one excavated site, Berrybrae. At another recently excavated RSC, Tomnaverie, the recumbent stone itself contains more quartz than the other stones; at two others, Auchmallidie and North Strone, the recumbent stone is itself one huge block of quartz.

 

Lunar Cupmarks: There are few cup-marked stones at RSCs; cup marks occur only on the recumbent stone or flankers, or in one case only on the adjacent circle stone. They are never found in other parts of the circle. Remarkably, the orientations of these cup marks from the centre correspond quite closely to specific rising and setting points of the moon, namely the most southerly limits, known as the major and minor standstill limits.  There are few cup-marked stones at RSCs; cup marks occur only on the recumbent stone or flankers, or in one case only on the adjacent circle stone. They are never found in other parts of the circle. Remarkably, the orientations of these cup marks from the center correspond quite closely to specific rising and setting points of the moon, namely the most southerly limits, known as the major and minor standstill limits. (6)

(Archaeoastronomy Homepage)

 

Gallery of Images:  Recumbent Circles.

Easter Aquorthies, Scotland.

Easter Aquhorthies is one of the best preserved examples of this type of stone circle.  The diameter is just under 20m, and is predominantly grey and pink granite.  Standing in the centre of the circle, facing the recumbent, the third stone to the left is of jasper. The same anomaly also appears at Balgorkar. (2) A few of the recumbents, such as the one at Easter Aquhorthies (right), have what appear to be vestigial passages— defined by long slabs of stone—running inwards, towards the centre of the circle.

(The Specific Selection of Stones for Megaliths)

Old Keig, Scotland.

The recumbent stone at Old Keig is estimated to weigh over 50 tons, and was carried from 10 miles distance, a job which would have required a huge work-force. The recumbent was positioned so that its length (5m), was such that the moon rose at its minimum and maximum settings (over the 18.6 yr cycle) from behind the left and right 'flankers', gliding along the surface of the recumbent.

(Top-50 Largest Megaliths)

(Stone Circles Homepage)

(Archaeoastronomy)

(A-Z Site Index)

 

... Sponsor a Page Program...

Become the exclusive sponsor of any page on this site.

Contact us HERE for further information.

About Us Homepage  |  A-Z Site Index  |  Gift Shop  |  Contact-Us

Web Hosting by WiserHosting