A stone circle in rural Scotland that caused excitement among archaeologists when it was discovered last month is actually a replica built in the 1990s, it has emerged. When they were reported to authorities by a local farmer, the ring of ten stones in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie in Aberdeenshire were thought to be thousands of years old.
Archaeologists initially believed the site was a previously unidentified “recumbent stone circle”, a type of formation unique to north east Scotland. Almost 100 others exist across the region. Their defining feature is a large horizontal stone known as the recumbent, which is flanked by two upright stones and is usually situated between the south east to south west of the circle. At the time, the supposed new discovery was hailed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and Aberdeenshire Council, which described it as an “amazing” find.
But as archaeologists set about investigating the site, a former owner of the farm contacted a stone circle specialist at HES to admit that he had constructed the circle in the mid-1990s. The confusion apparently arose because the current owner of the farm did not move in until long after the circle was made and did not realise it was the work of a previous occupant.
When they first saw the circle, archaeologists thought it was unusual as its diameter was about 10ft smaller than most of the others in the area and it used smaller stones. But as there is wide variation in the style of such circles, these puzzling aspects were not enough to suggest it was a fake. Neil Ackerman, historic environment record assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said: “It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story. “That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community. “I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed – while not ancient, it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape.”
He continued: “These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. For this reason we include any modern replicas of ancient monuments in our records in case they are later misidentified. “We always welcome reports of any new, modern reconstructions of ancient monuments, especially those built with the skill of this stone circle and that reference existing monument types.” The average size of a recumbent stone is 24 tonnes. The people who constructed them carefully levered and chocked them up to ensure that their upper surface was as level as possible. While their purpose is still largely unknown, in several cases such circles appear to have been converted into burial monuments, usually signified by the construction of a cairn within the ring.