Posts Tagged ‘Bronze Age

17
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Autumn Equinox newsletter 2002 Vol.XIII #3

FOGS AUTUMN EQUINOX NEWSLETTER Vol XIII no.3 September 2002

Venus Pillars and Solar Dogs

Archaeoastrononomical Sunset into a horizon 'notch'

Sunset in Northeast Scotland, at equinox due West; at solstice at NNW

EQUINOX is traditionally the season for getting back to the time-old occupation of watching sunset, full-moonrise and the autumn heavens. It is onset of the aurora season when for some inexplicable reason there is more geomagnetic actiivity (related to solar flares) and, it seems, the time for other celestial phenomena. These include nacreous clouds – those wonderful ephemeral patches of rainbow light which appear and as suddenly disappear around the edges of evening cirrus. There have been seen lately a lot of what in American terminology are called sun-pillars and sun-dogs (in the case of Venus, Venus-dogs!) where the pillar describes a shaft of light extending vertically from the light body and the dog a similar extension of light in a lateral direction. With the gradual brightening of Venus, the chance of seeing this phenomenon becomes more likely.

full moonrise occurs at NNE opposite the setting sun (SSW) on winter solstice

midwinter full moonrise in the north-north-east at latitude 57ºN

Sun-pillars are a regular feature of sunset around autumn equinox, even lingering as a great shining after the sun has set. With the continuation of our spell of ‘Indian summer’ and exceptional clarity of light, we aren’t surprised to find a phalanx of photographers most evenings at the well-known recumbent circles in the Northeast and some even at those lesser-known.

On equinox night, a magnificent solar ‘roll-down’ occurred, as seen from Shieldon (non-recumbent) circle at NJ 823 249 near Whiterashes, due west to the Buck of the Cabrach where a little before 7pm (BST) the flaming orb of an equinoctial sun did its primeval tumble down the northern slope, setting into a notch of the Cabrach (Alexander Thom eat your heart out!) and flooding the Garioch with an almost ethereal light. It is no wonder that FOGS who were considered ‘fringe’ 20 years ago are now being joined by a growing number of sky-watchers: all meeting by chance in the stone circles of Aberdeenshire, Kincardine and Banffshire to witness such autumnal glory.

We think the practice is catching on!
©2002MCY

Crop Circle but not a Crop Circle

winter solstice 2002, shadows of a stone/crop circle

Hybrid stone/crop circle at winter solstice 2002

CIRCLE-watchers may have noticed a sudden straw bale sculpture appearing as if by the wave of a cosmic wand on the Garioch-dominating plateau at Kirkton of Bourtie, NJ 801 249. However, unlike the crop circle which appeared mid-morning on an August day in 1995 in a wheat crop on a Culsalmond farm, the circular structure at Bourtie is decidedly man-made. It is the inspiration of sculptor Keiji Nagahiro, combined with dowser Peter Donaldson and farmer Ian Peddie, who with broad grin from tractor cab manipulated bulky but beautiful round bales into position (no mean feat) while the ideas men looked on and directed the final shape in an attempt to replicate the circle’s original alignment. Its ultimate position – a recumbent circle in straw – is all things to all men – or at least to these three: to one it is a fleeting glimpse of what might have been, created in rustic splendour to last no more than a single season; to another, it was something fun to do after harvest but before the ‘back end’ dictates when everything is brought in; to the dowser it is a physical shape superimposed on an energy signal received by the dowsing rod. It has been a fascinating exercise in people-watching: on the day it was created – one week before equinox – two Californians strolled up the slope, utterly unsurprised by the manifestation. BBC Radio Scotland was quick to send a researcher who was transported by the site, its structure and its vista. Others have followed, often spotting the sculpture from the road and screeching to a halt, entranced. Our members have only a little time to see it in its present glory as the farming year and equinoctial gales (so far, amazingly absent) will soon dictate its being or non-being. We recommend it, if only for the presence it brings to this ancient place, in a way regenerating in the imagination how the circle must have looked to its early architects 5000 years ago. To FOGS who follow shadow casts (especially good at equinox), the bales add another dimension to shadow outlines in barley stubble while low sunlight highlights cropmarks of an avenue approaching the circle, peppered with quartz pebbles, a hallmark of NE circle design. The imagination soars.

Post scriptum on above article: Google Earth continues to display this sculptural-stroke-agricultural-energetic phenomenon: as the aerial photo used in their GoogleEarth page for Kirkton on Bourtie will show. This clearly dates GoogleEarth’s map coverage of Aberdeenshire to the autumn and winter of 2002.

Untimely death

IT IS with sadness that we have to announce the untimely death of Dr Nick Bogdan, one of the leaders of the Fetternear Episcopal Palaces Project this autumn. He will be greatly missed. At this time it is difficult to predict how the work in which he was involved will continue, but his partner and fellow archaeologist, Dr Penny Dransart has our blessing and condolences. We wish her well in continuing the work they both began and will report when future plans are further developed.

Druidsfield Saved

FOGS might be forgiven for thinking our efforts often go unseen or, more colloquially, that we spit in the wind; but occasionally, a success is eeked out through perseverence. Such is the case with the Druidsfield (known to Historic Scotland as Broomend of Crichie) ritual henge, avenue entrance and Pictish carved stone at Port Elphinstone, Inverurie NJ779 191-6. We added our voice to local opposition to a plan for development of a certain hamburger chain to adjoin the circle and ditch – visions of half-eaten buns and related waste floating in a prehistoric context made more than FOGS’ hair curl, it seems. Thanks in great part to Inverurie businessman Bob Minto and his supporters, the burger meisters will find another site and the Druidsfield will continue to provide pleasure for local walkers. It has been reported that this very field has been acquired by Aberdeenshire Council, for unknown purpose and for an undisclosed sum. Locals are again on the warpath. We shall confirm.

FOGS Dowsing Day & AGM

MIDWAY through a week of solid rain, FOGS’ AGM turned out to be one of brilliant sunshine with not a cloud in sight. Dowsers – new and experienced – were seen lurking, bending, pacing, doing all the bodily antics that dowsers do among remnant woodland near Midmar Kirk. Visitors were drawn from Dundee, Glasgow and Inverness, along with a full complement of regular FOGS who seemed to enjoy every minute. Results not all yet in, but preliminary consensus would have it that the Midmar Kirk recumbent circle may be a later progression, with its operative stones moved a few metres downslope from an original site focused on the Balblair monolith nearby. A visiting Dundee lecturer in architecture specializing for his Ph.D. in geomancy [yes] said he came because the grid between latitudes 56º and 58ºN are considered ‘most sacred and most proliferated with stone circles in the world’ (his quote) and he wanted to feel it for himself. We are grateful to Phyllis Goodall and Peter Donaldson for leading the dowsing and encouraging so many newbies. More meetings of the like were enthusiastically recommended. Printouts of the dowsed circle will no doubt appear in due course but, as our scientist-dowser is now our new membership sec, please give the man a chance! In the meantime, his consummate dowsing and mapping of recumbent stone circle and Bronze Age cemetery at Loanhead of Daviot is here.

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring 2000 newsletter vol.XI#2

SPRING EQUINOX NEWSLETTER Volume XI number 2 March 2000

Brandsbutt stone Inverurie ogham and serpent

Brandsbutt carved Pictish stone Inverurie

Holding the Fort
WINTER provides a magnificent opportunity for study and photography of our ancient monuments, but it also allows closer inspection of any damage which has occurred. We are particularly aware of ever-encroaching ‘progress’ and of potential alteration to the land left us in trust by our ancestors. Current farming practice, while generally not too threatening to ‘scheduled’ antiquities, thinks nothing of bulldozing and burying 18th century drystane dykes whose stones were gathered so laboriously as necessary enclosures in times before barbed wire. How soon will the NE landscape become one without stone altogether, a place of billboards and development signs and barbed wire fences?

OUR worries on this score may be needless, if those who heed our warnings act promptly and deal with the miscreants. But recent activities in this corner of Scotland do not indicate a general tendency towards conservation and respect for the past. Rather is it a current theme in agricultural business to ‘make the most’ of a loophole in legislation and make a profit from an endless round of grants and subsidies; and for those in charge of our heritage to let them.

map of Scotland with Neolithic and Pictish heritage

Neolithic, Bronze Age and Pictish sites in Scotland

TO clarify the situation: Antiquities and heritage in stone in Scotland are now under the protection of the Scottish Executive, with ‘operational responsibility for safeguarding Scotland’s built heritage’ in the hands of Historic Scotland – the north-of-the-border equivalent of English Heritage. The offices of this executive arm are in Edinburgh, at Longmore House, Salisbury Place EH9 1SH, telephone 0131-668 8777. It has jurisdiction over 7,000 scheduled monuments in Scotland and is essentially in charge of deciding which monuments countrywide meet the criteria for ‘national importance’.

If an ancient site is considered worthy, it is added to the List of Scheduled Monuments. If not, it is not. As a government agency, it is by its own remit, only able to prosecute those who are caught doing damage to a scheduled antiquity.

Damage or defacement of ‘unscheduled’ stones is not their concern. In a recent letter, Historic Scotland reminded FOGS that ‘the responsibility for keeping monuments in good order lies with owners.’ This was probably safe in the hands of farming proprietors who took pride in maintaining boundary walls, shelterbelt planting and wildlife conservation. Stones were an organic part of that landscape.

BUT land changes hands.

AND in certain areas, backed by our so-called ‘public servants’, interest is now in how much farmland can be turned over for housing, or if retained for agricultural practice, how much more land can be brought under the plough or is eligible for a forestry planting grant. Half a century of blanket forestry planting by a single agency has shown how much damage occurs to antiquities either in root growth or in logging mature trees. Yet, the responsibility for such monuments lies with owners.

SINCE the acquisition in 1991 by Historic Scotland of the responsibilities previously shouldered by Historic Buildings & Monuments and, before that, by the Ministry of Works, a laudable 50% has been added to the number of scheduled monuments. However, the Northeast, with by far the largest number of antiquities in Scotland, has protection of only a fraction of the national total (16%), and only one warden assigned to an area half the size of Switzerland. She cannot possibly visit all the monuments in her charge more than once in five years.

IN a letter from the First Minister to a colleague who questioned, in support of FOGS, whether enough was being done, the Rt. Hon. Donald Dewar MP indicated he felt coverage was ‘adequate’. However in light of the bureaucratic nod given to a track dredged through woodland in Durris to create a 4WD off-road playground – thereby damaging an unscheduled 4000-year old monument without penalty or legal consequences – we are not convinced.

Activity in the arena has speeded up. In this climate it is a short step to losing sight of the picture altogether. If owners themselves are becoming seduced by profit margins, who but FOGS will still be around to hold high the banner or guard the fort? ©2000-2009MCY

15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Spring Equinox 1999 newsletter ‘X’-2

Spring Newsletter 1999 – Vernal Equinox Volume X number 2 (vol.X no 1 was Samhain 98 q.v.)

Picts, Kings, Saints, Chronicles

Pictish carved stone in Inverurie 'Castleyards' old kirkyard

Crescent and V-rod, sun-disk and serpent carved Pictish stone

A pictish one-day conference arranged in honour of Dr Marjorie O. Anderson on the occasion of her 90th birthday was held in the Quad lower college hall at the University of St Andrews on February 13th 1999. A collaboration by the School of History, Early Medieval Research Group, Scottish Studies Institute and Committee for Dark-Age Studies, its focus and its speakers ensured its success. It was fully booked. While Dr Anderson was unable to hear presentations because of illness, she would have marvelled at the excitement and energy generated in both lecture hall and lunchroom by speakers and delegates all pressing to share new developments in this emergent discipline. Drs Simon Taylor and Dauvit Broun unveiled new discoveries in placename survival and the St Andrews foundation legend (versions A and B); Profs. Richard Sharpe and Máire Herbert gave both insular and Irish slants on the political structure of Dál Riata; Isabel Henderson unveiled her theory on specific sculpture schools of the Picts; while both Prof. David Dumville and Dr David Howlett, of Universities of Cambridge and Oxford respectively, kept delegates on tenterhooks with their expositions on the Chronicle of Kings of Alba and on the sacred numerology of its 12thC verse equivalent, the anonymous De Situ Albanie.  Prof. Archie Duncan pulled the audience into the present millennium with his fine elucidation of the Melrose and Holyrood Pictish Chronicles, followed by an immaculate summation and tribute to Mrs Anderson by Prof.Geoffrey Barrow of the University of Edinburgh. He concluded, along with the authors of ‘1066 and All That’ that [the conference, sources and] chronicles were ‘a damn good thing.’  He (along with us) awaits somewhat impatiently the publication of ‘all these riches’.  Members who would like to be advised either of further conferences or publications produced by Dr Barbara Crawford’s Committee for Dark-Age Studies or of details of membership in Dr Simon Taylor’s Scottish Placename Society can write to St Andrews Scottish Studies Institute, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL. Details of Scottish Placename Society’s webpage are given here.                                             ©1999MCY

FOGS Membership feedback. . .

WHITECROSS Equinox

ABERDEEN member Dr Theodore Allan remarks on  the Hill of Whitecross one mile south of Chapel of Garioch at NJ 717 225, visible from the recumbent circle of Balquhain but not from Easter Aquhorthies. His interest is apt at this time of year, as it is a marker hill for sunset on the Feast Day of  Bride (Candlemas, and incidentally at its opposite season, Martinmas). However its derivation as the Hill of the White Cross or Crossing may stem from its sacred point of the moon’s crossing or setting – as seen from Balquhain – at the end of summer, the pagan White season, and the point where the full moon sets once in 19 years at its minor standstill. This should be a hill to watch in the summer of 2014 at the next standstill! The physical crossing of the hill must also have had significance to Bronze Age and Pictish descendants, as anyone who has walked the Netherton of Balquhain road can testify.  Leaving behind in the east the Bronze Age burial cairn on Dilly Hill, NJ 751 224, and walking due west, not only does the outline of the Hill of Whitecross draw the eye but for a mile and a half the traveller’s visiion is filled with the sacred shape of the Mother mountain Bennachie. At Burnside of Balquhain, NJ 730 225, where the road turns sharply north, the walker can clearly see how the old road used to rise directly west to Whitecross, itself topped by a cairn. An added delight for placename enthusiasts is the name of this miniscule valley created by the burn which springs on Whitecross’ lower slopes, flows past Burnside and Mains of Balquhain, turning to join the Urie at Drimmies (which Pictophiles will know has its own symbol stone:  it is the Strathnaterick, valley of the serpent of ancient wisdom. This lonely stretch of road, now mostly used by farm traffic, is an inspiration to walk on a spring evening. Thanks to Dr Allan for his observations.

BLUE MOON

TWO OF our regulars communicate on the phenomenon of this year’s blue moons, first in January and now in March; Griselda Macgregor in Inverurie and Trevor Alcott in Crimond are both interested in lunar activity, although from slightly different angles: Ms Macgregor requests the reason for the use of the term ‘Blue Moon’, i.e. for two full moons in the month, while Mr. Alcott likes to extrapolate grander figures of moons in the Metonic cycle.  We might cover both in a limited way.  First, we find  no-one in any context outside Scotland, and perhaps even outside the  bounds of Aberdeenshire, using the term ‘blue moon’ to mean two full moons in the month [in 1999, January 2: 0250; 31:1607, accompanied by a visible penumbal lunar eclipse at 1619; March 2: 0659; 31: 2249 – all times GMT]. The fact that February this year had no full moon at all is purely a figment of modern man’s calculations, as our forefathers when they spoke of the moon, meant the month, and vice versa.  The arbitrary nature of the ‘phenomenon’ can  be seen, particulary in the second March date, to occur only from Europe west, and not for instance, in Australia, where the second full moon falls within April. While not answering the question, we open the door to any contributions from members who have NE knowledge of folkloric or traditional useage.

LUNAR STANDSTILLS

We have touched on standstill moons before, as the time once every  18.61 years that the moon is seen at its most erratic in the night sky, behaving as if with a ‘wobble’. We receive several calls a year requesting more detail for stone-watchers with astronomical leanings – the latest from a member in Edinburgh who prefers anonymity.

Trevor Alcott puts it simply:

‘Correction for our latitude (57ºN approx) is, according to Reed’s Nautical Almanac, seven minutes. The rule is, when declination is north, subtract from moonrise time and add to moonset time. Reverse applies if declination is south. Our biggest problem is one with which mariners do not have to cope, i.e. the height and distance of the horizon relative to the observer, but I promise, you don’t want to know!  The easiest way is to observe a few full moons, note the times, and correct from the nautical times for that particular observation point.’ 

Sensible man.  So, for those early birds preparing for their next maximum and minimum moonset and moonrise, when the moon’s motion relative to other months  is distinctly wobbly,  may we suggest marking your diary now: 

Next major standstill at the full moon nearest to winter solstice occurs in 2005, when the full moon will rise in midwinter at the most northerly point it ever rises.

Next minor standstill, or full moon nearest to summer solstice, happens in 2014.

If we are spared, we may try for a gathering for wobble watchers at a stone circle to compare notes.
©MCY 1999-2009




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archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

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