Updated: Mar 12
Our next adventure took us to the East Aquhorthies Stone Circle near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire.
It is one of Scotland’s best-preserved recumbent stone circles. As we wandered among these 4000 year old stones, we reflected on its original purpose.
Stone circles are a common site across Scotland, so what is a recumbent stone circle?
For starters they are only found in north-east Scotland - about 100 of them can be found in this area. Their main feature is a large stone set on its side and flanked by two upright stones, usually on the south or south-west facing side of the circle.
Here at the East Aquhorthies, the stones seem to have been chosen for their colour. 11 of the standing stones are rough, pinkish porphyry. However, the stone next to the east flanker is of red jasper and the two flanking stones, on either side of the recumbent stone, are grey granite. It is fascinating that these stones are notably from different quarries and we can only imagine the logistics behind such a project.
Like many specialists, we have been wondering why recumbent stone circles were created. The answer to this day is, we don’t know. They may have been ritual sites related to the disposal of the dead through cremation, which became a common practice at one point in the Bronze Age. Or perhaps, the south-west alignment of the stones may have helped prehistoric farming communities to follow the changing seasons: The flanking stones would have framed the rising and setting moon at midsummer.
Be it midsummer or a cold October day, standing in this stone circle surrounded by sheep during sunset was a purely breathtaking experience.