Posts Tagged ‘Inverurie

17
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones 2002 Candlemas newsletter Vol.XIII #1

FEBRUARY CANDLEMAS NEWSLETTER 2002 Vol.XIII-1
Return of the Light

IMBOLC (Christian Candlemas) brings new light, the rise of spring, bird nesting activity, anticipation of the warmth and fecundity to come.

While markers within Neolithic stone circles were probably well-known to the contemporary population, we sometimes forget that each stone had its solar as well as its lunar function. We sometimes forget to experience sunset at all.

Sunset at Easter Aquhorthies one mile West of Inverurie is always a revelation. At Imbolc it is defined by a clear shadow of the recumbent ‘window’ group falling on two stones to the north of the shimmering jasper stone at the modern entrance. As sunset approaches in early February, one is mesmerized by the advancing shadow as it creeps towards the two smaller circumference stones. Precisely at the moment of sunset, they align exactly and then both sun and shadow are extinguished.

The jasper stone alone, it seems, holds a memory of the light, continuing to twinkle and gleam until dusk. Its quality of reflecting light must indeed have been revered.

Other miracles of light seem to happen at this time, significant to much later civilizations. The Hill of Barra, NJ803 257, has no known stone circle, but was an enclosed ramparted settlement of the Iron Age which continued as a hilltop stronghold in the Pictish era. From its summit, accessible via the Bourtie-Meldrum Community Walk, at least five stone circles are visible, but most compelling is the uninterrupted view of Mither Tap of Bennachie. Around 5pm, weather permitting, for 10 nights in mid-February the sun and Mither Tap do a dance. For the week of Imbolc, Bennachie’s mass engulfs the sun, swallowing the orb low into Mither Tap. But midway through this time period, a change occurs and she agrees to spit the sun back out! On February 17th, the sun starts its sunset roll into Mither Tap, is received by the mother mountain at 5pm and reappears seven minutes later on her northern crag. This rebirth, even to time-worn eyes, is a surprise. Mother mountain has given birth to the sun! One dimly understands the joy of celebration, seasonal change.The sun is almost playful in this rite of passage, setting for the next week in more of a roll than an extinction, as each of the peaks in turn along her broad back appears to rise to swallow its fire. ©2002MCY

Ringing in Changing Seasons

A FEW weeks of unseasonably fine weather called for a FOGS-run experiment at Garioch stone circles in central Aberdeenshire.

There are many 18th and 19thCC references to ringing stones at Grampian circles – among them Easter Aquhorthies, Balquhain, the Standing Stones of Dyce and Arnhill, Tillytarmont. For good measure a small group of FOGS tried to produce effects at a number of circles. Results were especially good where surrounding stones remain complete, and gave an amphitheatre of sound. One person struck or played a musical instrument within the inner ‘sanctuary’ or preciinct enclosed by the recumbent stone and flankers, while listeners stood or walked to various points within the circle.

At Easter Aquhorthies and Loanhead of Daviot, the best point for receiving the sound was on a mound [E.A.] or stone platform [Loanhead] marginally to N of centre where string chords or even voice reduced to a whisper were quite audible. At Easter Aquhorthies there is a kind of ‘tuning fork stone’ projecting inwards from the centre of the massive recumbent; it may have been set strategically as a sounding board because the human voice carries remarkably well from this stone – its vibrations spreading out and reverberating not only through the circle amphitheatre, but also creating a secondary echo resonance.

The group repeated the exercise at Loanhead, where there is no such ‘sounding’ stone, but where the recumbent is split in two. Hands clapped between the two slabs resulted in echoes felt by participants throughout the inner circle. Again the group tried the voice experiment at Kirkton of Bourtie circle – a damaged monument with much stone clearance clutter, and while they could feel resonance, much of the effect seemed to disperse, with no amphitheatre to ‘capture’ the sound.

Ultra- and infra-sound experiments recently replicated by groups in south Britain and at New Grange in the Boyne valley in Ireland, including much sophisticated equiment, gave sonic waves graphically recorded’.

The effect on our FOGS observers, to say the least, was tantalizing and exciting enough to suggest yet another side to the rituals enacted by Neolithic celebrants to mark the changing seasons.

Charting the Nation
CHARTING the Nation’ is a three year collaborative digital imaging and cataloguing project, whose primary aim is to widen access via the web to historic maps of Scotland and associated archives dating from 1590 to 1740. It is led by two researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Charles Withers and Andrew Grout.

one of 30 bull stones which ringed the Pictish promontory fort

Bull carved stone, one of 30 originally surrounding Pictish Burghead

UMOs
HENRY Moore Institute Leeds is currently showing a rare glimpse of Unidentified Museum Objects on loan from the British Museum. They include the unique phallic Portsoy whetstone, a carved ball and a Burghead bull. Sadly the exhibition will not travel farther north and so any FOGS keen to see the rarities will have until the end of the month to visit the Henry Moore Institute, Headway, Leeds. For non-travellers, details on the British Museum website.

Roman discoveries at Birnie

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus

Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (AD192-211)

TWO surprise hoards of Roman coins have been found in an Iron Age context at Birnie, Moray. In last year’s excavation, curator of Iron Age and Roman
archaeology with the National Museums of Scotland Fraser Hunter was delighted when a pot of Roman denarii turned up in excavations at an Iron Age settlement outside Elgin. The pot was broken, but contained some 300 coins dating to the reign of emperor Severus, last to attempt conquest of Pictish Caledonia, nearly 1800 years ago. Early this year another clay pot was unearthed – this one entire and undamaged – only 10 yards away from the former hoard. Both are in NMS undergoing conservation and examination.

‘Spiritual’ Tourism

FOGS has added its voice to two national bodies attempting to moderate the state-dominated attitude to digging up the past. It is based on our members’ respect for sacred sites in our own area and on the premise that laser scan and sonic technology [archaeoptics and infrasound] can arguably be used to better effect than digging into and disturbing a sacred space with the possibility of loss of ‘finds’.

‘Spiritual’ tourism – one which takes account of people’s need to visit a site for its sacredness in an atmosphere conducive to contemplation – is supported by the Cruithni Charter, ASLaN (AncientSacred Landscape Network) and countryside organizations, including SNH, Friends of the Earth, Council for Rural England and others concerned for the historic landscape. As ever, our view puts emphasis on education, in order to prevent degradation or defacement. Additional URLs: here and here.

Copyright ©2002-2009 FOGS & MCY

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15
Nov
09

Friends of Grampian Stones Fall newsletter 2001 vol.XII #4

FOGS Newsletter FALL 2001 volume XII NO.4

Dycegoodall

5000-year old Dyce recumbent stone circle overlooks modern airport

2001 Year of Contemplation (written after September 11)

It is perhaps at times of world crisis that thoughts turn to what we have done and what we can still do for our planet.

FOGS have traditionally supported both heritage and environment and, given the possibility of public funds becoming less fluid, we in Banffshire, Aberdeenshire, Kincardineshire and Moray can be proud of our private involvement in conserving our unique cluster of sacred monuments.

While we mourn with our American brothers and sisters the loss of fellow travellers, we also spare a thought for those in Afghanistan who may have lost everything.

Our own heritage is not in immediate danger of being wiped out by a sudden coup, but we are well to remain alert to changes which may happen as a result of consolidation within Europe. Umbrellas, after all, should provide basics, i.e. shelter.

While there remains a significant gap between FOGS’ concept and that of deskbound administrators in a government department of what is of ancient and historical importance, there is still a place for us to keep our ‘on-the-ground’ vigil.

Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle and flankers

5000-year old Aikey Brae recumbent stone circle, Aberdeenshire

Stones are not only fine places to visit for inspiration and a great view, but they remind us how our founding farming communities were motivated:

to mark as sacred the changes in season, on the whim of Mother Nature who still provides us with beauty all around if we have eyes to see it;
or, like the Picts, the demarcation of land by the placing of sacred stones for all to see.

While none of us would want to return to days of invoking earth spirits with sacrificial offerings in order to stay famine or plague, it is not without purpose that the Northeast remains one of the most beautiful landscapes in which to contemplate our beginnings – and possibly even our endings.

People worldwide right now are contemplating their spiritual home; their genuine priorities, their way forward. Perhaps for us it is to show to others what Nature [with a little help from her FOGS friends] has kept alive these past 5000 years: call them sacred sites, power points, places of astronomical anomaly or community focus – what you will – they are on our doorstep, part of our spiritual heritage and worthy of our attention. ©2001MCY

Another Pictish cross-stone

simple Christian Pictish cross embedded in kirkyard wall

Pictish early Christian cross reused in kirkyard wall, Bourtie, Inverurie

While attention is focused on stones – even local press have dropped their usual confrontational items to cover the county-wide survey by RCAHMS – it is comforting to know that there are still stones to be ‘discovered’ after generations of stone-hunting.

Bourtie steading crossfront

Pictish 8thC cross stone embedded in steading, Kirkton of Bourtie Aberdeenshire

Found recently, embedded in a farm steading at Bourtie, is another incised cross-stone, similar in design and date to that sited in the coping of the kirkyard wall surrounding the ancient little church on its hillside setting E of Inverurie. The second find is yet another example of seventh/eighth century traffic of missionaries through the Northern Pictish territories at a time when the spread of Christianity was in its infancy. Such crosses are simply cut, usually in a semi-portable stone, with no other ornament. It has been suggested they mark ‘pillows’ of the saints who converted individual communities.

doormigvieb&w

Door to church at Migvie, carved to commemorate the Pictish stone in the kirkyard

Invariably, later medieval practice was to incorporate such cross-stones within church lands or, like a similar [larger] stone at Afforsk [NJ696 208], to mark church boundaries. The Bourtie stone is built into the steading in a horizontal position [NJ804 249], unlike another early cross-stone in Inverurie which is built upright into the wall of the Freemasons’ Hall [NJ777 214] on the High Street. Sadly two further cross-stones in Inverurie at the Castlleyards [Bass kirkyard], remarked on by James Ritchie in 1911, are now lost. However there are still remarkable examples of this type of sculpture at Monymusk, Cothal-Fintray, Tullich, Migvie, Dyce and Dunecht.

Dyce Symbol Stones update

Dyce Class II stone to be rehoused at Aberdeen

Dyce Class II Pictish stone with elaborate fish-tail ogham on rear

FOGS have been wondering when the Pictish symbol stones and their companion cross-stones are to return to St Fergus’s kirk, Dyce, as promised by Historic Scotland, who removed them to Edinburgh in 1997. Recent response to our request for an update indicates that Historic Scotland are providing funds for Aberdeen City Council to do the work of consolidating the kirk. FOGS have offered to assist in a small way, e.g. with the provision of an interpretative signboard, once work is completed and a new shelter is in place. According to Historic Scotland CEO Graeme Munro, this may not materialize until 2002. Dyce stones may be viewed meantime by appointment at S.Gyle Conservation Centre [HS].

RCAHMS forges on
Following exclusive coverage in our spring newsletter and your many letters to Parliament in support of RCAHMS, the unsung heroes of the Royal Commission’s ground force are continuing their massive survey of Aberdeenshire, the last county in the series begun in 1908. While much has been added to the National Monuments Record over recent decades, we await results with interest as the ‘Strathdon’ survey turns over every rock. Watch this space.

Fetternear’s bonus discoveries
Following their kind invitation to hold our 2001 AGM at the medieval Bishops’ palace of Fetternear, team project directors Drs Penny Dransart and Nick Bogdan excitedly revealed an array of new discoveries at the excavation site outside Kemnay. In addition to expected evidence on the enormous size of the palace grounds, it appears to have been the successor to a series of sacred buildings, with earlier [Bronze Age] settlement occupation on high ground at the palace rear.

Also on this plateau were found worked flint and other tools linking the site to possible earlier use of the ground in both Neolithic and even Mesolithic periods.

James Kenworthy, Paul Gerderd and a keen group of volunteers [both student and FOGS-based] assisted the progress of work on this most intriguing summer project. If further funding can be secured to ensure an eighth season in 2002, it is possible the true strategic significance of Fetternear within the history of the Pictish Church in the North may become clear.

It is also thought that its Jesuit links at the Reformation are an indication of its dominance as an ecclesiastical centre, dating not only to the time of the Norman kings, but to a place of sacred sanctuary or monastic foundation, the focus of education, pastoral care and religious works from the Pictish era, when eighth-century Class II Christian carved stones begin to appear. Because of the very few Class II stones within Aberdeenshire [by comparison with a relative bevvy of such beauties in Moray, around Elgin, Spynie, Gordonstoun, centred on Kinneddar], any discoveries of this kind of sculpture at Fetternear would make the project directors very happy indeed.




Cleopas

archives from Friends of Grampian Stones webpage

stones, historical

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