Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tyrebagger Stones

We cannot know for sure, but it is believed that the primary purpose of the recumbant stone circles of Aberdeenshire is as a calendar, not a burial site. Though many do have burials associated with them, these are thought to be from a later era. Tyrebagger Hill Stone Circle is a very fine example, with some jaw-droppingly large stones. Accessible by foot or mountain bike from Kirkhill Forest or Aberdeen Airport, the stones are partially blighted by Kirkhill Industrial Estate. The site is not accessible by car.

The recumbant stone at Tyrebagger has been on the wonk for ages -


The broad stone has fallen inwards and rests in an inclined position upon one or two small stones, which probably formed part of the inner ring. The stones of the outer ring are of very unequal heights; the tallest being 9 feet 7 inches and the shortest 3 feet.

The Rev. has misunderstood the 'unequal heights' thing. All the recumbant stone circles of Aberdeenshire show a gradation in stone height, smallest at the back (north), largest being the flankers. The angle(s) formed by this gradation point(s) to stuff in the sky.

Some say the picts worshipped Orion, which is plausible. It's suggested that the constellation can be seen "standing" on the recumbant on one night of the year - an impressive sight. It would have been all the more so in days when there was no light-pollution.

Others suggest that the purpose of the stones is more rational and practical than that, with no supernatural content or supreme beings or anything like that. The recumbant stone circles of Aberdeenshire can be used to track the moon and plot the cross quarter days, equinoxes and solstices. Important markers in the agricultural calendar, and so, important days in the life of the community. The recumbant and flankers act as a sort of 'screen frame' through which to observe the perigrinations of the moon. We still have 'holidays' on these important days: Mayday (Beltane); Aug bank holiday (Lughnasadh); various summer festivals; Halloween (Samhain); Christmas (Yule, Hogmanay); Valentines (Imbolc); etc. There are, inevitably, Christian festivals and holidays on these important markers too.

The recumbant aligns with Brimmond hill to the south. The other day, We were on the summit of Brimmond Hill and the stones could be seen very clearly from the summit, glinting in the strong sun. The stones are also clearly visible from the approach road to the Kirkhill Industrial Estate and the Airport - indeed, once you know they're there, you can't miss them - they kinda dominate.

There's more to the stones than the way they look. They have magnetic and acoustic qualities too:

From p45 of Stone Circles Near Aberdeen
A. L. Lewis
The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 17. (1888), pp. 44-57.

Mr. McCombie Stewart, the station-master at Dyce, who should be consulted by any one visiting Dyce for scientific purposes, informed me that there was formerly a hole in the middle of the circle, which might be suggestive of the former existence of a kist; he also told me that there was supposed to be iron in the largest stones, and this seems very probable, for, on working my rough plans out at home, I found a disagreement in the compass-bearings. In this emergency I applied to Mr. McCombie Stewart, sending him a plan and asking him to verify my compass-bearings and some other particulars. He was so kind as not only to do this, but to get one of the Engineers of the railway to make an exact plan of the circle, showing the bearing of each stone from the centre. I am happy to be able to say as showing the accuracy of my own methods, that my plan superposed upon his gave practically the same results.

In the letter accompanying the plan, Mr. McCombie Stewart, who is qualified to speak as a geologist, says, "We were unable to account for the peculiar ringing sound of the altar stone, unless it be caused by the flat shape of the stone, having its side firmly fixed in the ground, the projecting part having a certain vibration - or if it were from the hard heathen substance of an iron nature - but one thing is certain, the stone is not of the same nature as those belonging to the neighbouring quarry.

Hmmm. There are other 'ringing' stones around town. More later.

A visit to Tyrebagger stones is recommended. We were there on a Sunday morning, so there was no noise from the airport or Kirkhill industrial estate. Fabulous views across the Bucksburn/Greenburn/Gough Burn basin, over Woodside and Old Aberdeen and to the sea.

The AWPR will pass within 200 metres of this scheduled ancient monument which is one of the finest neolithic sites in Scotland, and is the only surviving stone circle within the parish boundaries of Aberdeen (I think).

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