6.6.5 Standing Stones and Astronomical Alignments

As noted in the Neolithic chapter (Chapter 5), standing stones are also difficult to date, and no work in the Highland Region has been able to shed light on this issue. Some, especially those in the southern part of the region, may be remains of circles or Clava-type cairns, while others may be part of alignments. The deposition of a Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age cache of lithics by a prominent boulder at Galmisdale, Eigg (MHG38076), where Late Bronze Age metalworking remains were also recovered, has been suggested to indicate this natural feature as a significant and enduring feature within the local landscape (Cowie 2002).

A great deal of attention has been directed towards alignments of monuments (see Chapter 5.6). Most of the Clava Cairns with passages were convincingly constructed facing the midwinter solstice setting, but there are a number of exceptions (Bradley 2000; Henshall and Ritchie 2001, 120). However, the alignments are not precise and are certainly not a calendar. Lunar alignments have also been investigated (ScARF Bronze Age section 5.4.2); again, there are issues of precision.

In a recently published statistical analysis of standing stone alignments, Higginbottom and Clay (2016) argue that the same or similar associations with astronomical events and landscape features influenced the erection of single stones and small stone circles in Highland and Island Scotland from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age. If Higginbottom and Clay’s results prove consistent after further testing, then the results suggest an intellectual continuity across wide space and time.

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