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South Fornet, stone circle 250m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Westhill and District, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1891 / 57°11'20"N

Longitude: -2.3608 / 2°21'38"W

OS Eastings: 378290

OS Northings: 810978

OS Grid: NJ782109

Mapcode National: GBR XB.9S4G

Mapcode Global: WH8P8.QK0M

Entry Name: South Fornet, stone circle 250m NW of

Scheduled Date: 16 February 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12353

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: stone circle or ring

Location: Skene

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Westhill and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a recumbent stone circle dating to the late neolithic or early Bronze Age. It survives as a low, roughly circular rubble cairn and platform with two upstanding monoliths at its S arc and at least two fallen monoliths within the body of the cairn. The monument lies in enclosed improved pasture and cultivated land at the edge of a field at about 180m above sea level.

The two upright whinstone monoliths are likely to have flanked a (now removed) recumbent stone and formed part of the wider stone circle. They appear in situ and are each approximately two metres high. The quartz inclusions that have been recorded by some antiquarians and modern researchers are thought to be significant in replicating celestial bodies and as a way of connecting the sky to the earth. The monoliths sit just inside a circular rubble cairn around 20m in diameter, the profile of which suggests the survival of an artificial platform or levelled surface. Such platforms can be features of recumbent stones circles, which may also include a ring cairn. Modern field clearance impedes confirmation of this from visual inspection.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends to but does not include the stone dyke bounding the eastern side of the monument.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument represents the accumulated structural remains of what ultimately becomes a recumbent stone circle with later activity on and around it. From the field examination of similar sites, archaeologists have suggested these have a complex development sequence and that the presence of a later, superimposing stone circle (including a recumbent stone and its associated flankers) could signal a 'closing event' or change in use of the monument. Elements of this monument's various components and episodes, such as the flanking monoliths and cairn material and probable platform, are still visible and survive to a marked degree. In this sense it has considerable research potential in helping us understand both continuity and change in religious practice during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. The inter-connections between the monument's various structural elements can also tell us about its origins and changing function. The essential character of this monument still survives - the position of the recumbent stone is indicated by its two flankers despite the recumbent itself having been removed. The position and extent of the stone circle of which the recumbent and its flankers are part is broadly indicated by the circular extent of a central cairn and possible underlying platform. A number of large boulders, which are shaped and sized like those expected in such a stone circle, are scattered among the rubble core of the cairn itself. These may well be the graded monoliths that enclosed the cairn but their original context has been lost. The platform and later cairn-like mound suggest that a number of sealed deposits survive underneath and this might include cremation burials, pottery, carefully selected and graded stone material (used to define the circular extent or kerb), and the remains of timber structures or significant burning events and environmental ecofacts. These buried deposits can tell us much about the nature of construction and use, and the environment affecting this monument.

Contextual characteristics.

This is one of a relatively rare, geographically-confined and carefully positioned group of prehistoric religious monuments. Recumbent stone circles are a distinctive form of monument unique to NE Scotland: less than 100 are known and 36 of these are in Strathdon. We know that early prehistoric farmers increasingly exploited the strath and the number of these recumbent stone circles signals the spread of religious events along the strath from around the middle of the third millennium BC onwards.

While the distribution of these monuments is confined to NE Scotland, they share several physical characteristics with other forms of stone circles and related cairns (such as the tight group of Clava cairns to the west and the wider distribution of stone circles across the remainder of Scotland). Although the origin of this monument type is unclear, some researchers suggest that it is strongly linked to ring cairns and Clava cairns as an expression of local ritual tradition at monuments that may share similar structural elements: an outer stone circle (size-graded stones being deliberately positioned to accentuate a particular arc), a cairn, a platform, radial divisions and the artefactual remains of various activities. What makes the recumbent forms unique is their use of a horizontally-lain stone within the S arc of the circle. Researchers think this feature is connected to specific lunar or solar alignments and events, the framing of specific views to and from the monument, or the marking of an end (or closure) of a particular episode of use for the monument. The significance of individual examples such as South Fornet increases because researchers think they are often built, reused and adapted with common elements (such as cairns, stone circles and platforms) but in a different sequence or with variations in design and layout.

With the expanding settlement and landuse of Strathdon by communities in the late neolithic and early Bronze Age, South Fornet is one monument in a wider landscape, not just of connected recumbent stone circles but of associated ceremonial funerary monuments, such as the more frequent standing stones, stone alignments and burial monuments. The landscape position of these monuments is a key feature in determining where to build and, in the case of South Fornet, this is a very impressive position on high ground with a commanding all-round view.

With the other recumbent stone circles that survive in Strathdon, South Fornet can contribute to our understanding of the reach and influence of recumbent stone circles and their significance in such a small geographic area.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric religious practice, the chronological development of religious monuments and wider changes in society between neolithic and Bronze-Age communities. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand variation in (and its meaning across) this important monument type and therefore the study of Scotland in prehistory.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NJ71SE 1 and Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments Record records the site as NJ71SE 0001.

References:

Browne G F 1921, ON SOME ANTIQUITIES IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF DUNECHT HOUSE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Burl H A W 1976, THE STONE CIRCLES OF THE BRITISH ISLES: London and New Haven, Yale University Press.

Burl H A W 1970, 'The recumbent stone circles of North-East Scotland', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 102, 78.

Coles F R 1902, 'Report on the Stone Circles in Aberdeenshire (Inverurie, Eastern Parishes and Insch Districts) with measured plans and drawings, obtained under the Gunning fellowship', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 36, 496-7.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, VOLUME 1, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

Ritchie J 1919, 'Notes on some stone circles in the south of Aberdeenshire and north of Kincardineshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 53, 67.

RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: A FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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