Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar (HY294133) One of the finest stone circles anywhere,
this great henge monument is superbly situated on the Ness of Brodgar,
in a confluence of water and sky, surrounded by the agricultural heart
of Orkney. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced by the size of
the circle which is 103.7m or 125 megalithic yards in diameter. Of
the original 60 stones, 27 remain standing, varying between 2m and
4.5m in height. The site is laid out very accurately in a perfect
circle, with the stones approximately 6 degrees apart. One on the
North side is inscribed by some cryptographic Norse tree runes, thought
to stand for "Biorn".
The surrounding rock-cut ditch is 10m across and more than 3m deep,
though now half silted up. Radiocarbon dating from excavation of this
ditch places the building of the ditch in the third millennium BC.
Despite the size of the ditch there is no trace of a surrounding earthwork,
and an estimated 4,700 cubic metres of rock must have been shifted
to complete the excavation. All this implies an organised society
with a united belief in some form of cosmology or religion.
is an isolated menhir, the Comet Stone, set on a platform beside
the stumps of two other stones. Several other stones stand between
this and the Bridge of Brodgar. There are also several large mounds
and smaller tumuli in the area, which are probably Bronze Age, as
well as another circular mound to the north-west called the Ring
of Bookan (HY284145). It seems that the Brodgar area remained
important during the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC at least, and today
it still has a magnetic attraction.
There are a variety of astronomical alignments which may have been
intended by the builders of the Standing Stones. While many stones
are missing, simple observation suggests many possibilities. These
relate to the solstices and the equinoxes as well as times such as
Beltane (Old May Day). At winter and summer solstices the sunrises
and sunsets align with the stones and notches in the hills. Other
outlying standing stones may be markers for specific times of year
also. At spring and autumn equinoxes, viewed from the Comet Stone,
the sun sets just glancing off the westernmost stone.
There is nothing the author likes better than a walk around the Ring
of Brodgar. The variety of lighting conditions at different seasons
and times of day for which Orkney is justly famous, is nowhere more
evident than at this ancient site. The builders certainly knew what
they were doing when they chose the position at the centre of Orkney's
West Mainland! There are few more evocative places to be at dawn or
sunset at any time of year than the Ring of Brodgar, a place to enjoy
and perhaps where one can temporarily escape from time itself.
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