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Auchlee Cottage, stone circle 120m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in North Kincardine, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.0629 / 57°3'46"N

Longitude: -2.1823 / 2°10'56"W

OS Eastings: 389040

OS Northings: 796883

OS Grid: NO890968

Mapcode National: GBR XL.455D

Mapcode Global: WH9R2.GQ0X

Entry Name: Auchlee Cottage, stone circle 120m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12354

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: stone circle or ring

Location: Banchory-Devenick

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: North Kincardine

Traditional County: Kincardineshire

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, uneven, circular platform of rubble that is mostly turf covered. Several boulders lie flat on or at the edge of the platform. The monument lies in a field of improved pasture and is partly obscured by dense gorse bushes. It is located on the S side of Hill of Auchlee at about 130m above sea level and it faces the North Sea coast, approximately 4km to the east.

The outer limit of the site is marked by a number of monoliths (now lying flat) that indicate the position of the stone circle that would have enclosed the site. In the S arc of this circle, which is approximately 16m in diameter, lies a flat boulder that is likely to be the recumbent stone. It appears to be in situ despite missing the expected two flanking stones. Contained by this circle is a low rubble cairn (roughly 14m in diameter) that previous field recorders indicate as a ring cairn, enclosing a relatively flat central space of about 3m diameter. The presence of larger stones at the inner and outer limits of the cairn suggests it was built with defined edges or kerbs. The remaining (buried) components of the monument appear undisturbed and mostly sealed by rubble material from the cairn.

The area to be scheduled is circular 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.

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 enclosing a number of components and acting as a focus for or containing various events and ceremonies. From the field examination of similar sites, archaeologists have suggested they 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. In this monument, the enclosing stone circle (including a recumbent stone) and a ring cairn are the visible components that help to seal the buried elements of other possible features such as cremation burials, pottery, stone structures, the remains of significant burning event such as pyres, and environmental ecofacts. These elements survive to a marked degree and therefore the site has considerable research potential in helping us understand both continuity and change in the construction and use of this monument for religious events. The essential character of this monument still survives - the recumbent stone is in the circle's S arc as would be expected, and a number of other (fallen) monoliths indicate the remaining footprint of the stone circle. The cairn indicates a significant building phase and retains some of the structural detail of features, such as the inner and outer kerbs, as well as archaeological deposits beneath ground level.

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 valley and the number of these recumbent stone circles signals the spread of religious events along the valley 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 or spreads, 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 Auchlee 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, Auchlee is one monument in a wider landscape, not just of connected recumbent stone circles but also of associated ceremonial funerary monuments such as the more frequent standing stones, stone alignments and burial monuments. It belongs to a concentrated group of five recumbent stone circles and ring cairns (the other four are at Craighead, Aquorthies, Cairnwell and Old Bourtreebush) indicating a perhaps greater significance and concentration of activity here. The landscape position of these monuments is a key feature in determining where to build and, in the case of Auchlee, its position overlooks lands to the south (on the S side of Hill of Auchlee) and eastwards over the North Sea.

With the other recumbent stone circles that survive in this part of Scotland, Auchlee 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 NO89NE 4 and Aberdeenshire Council Sites and Monuments Record records the site as NO89NE 0005.

References:

Ralston I 1977, 'Banchory-Devenick: Auchlee', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1977.

Rees T 1997, 'The excavation of Cairnwell ring-cairn, Portlethen, Abedeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 127, 255-79.

RCAHMS 1984, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NORTH KINCARDINE, KINCARDINE AND DEESIDE DISTRICT, GRAMPIAN REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments Series of Scotland, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

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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