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The Ancestors - Neolithic Orkney - The Standing Stones of Stenness

Identifier

021719

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

The Standing Stones of Stenness by Godfrey Higgins. Circa 1829

The Standing Stones of Stenness is a Neolithic monument five miles northeast of Stromness on the mainland of Orkney, Scotland. This may be the oldest henge site in the British Isles. Various traditions associated with the stones survived into the modern era and they form part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. They are looked after by Historic Scotland.

The Heart of Neolithic Orkney was inscribed as a World Heritage site in December 1999. In addition to the Standing Stones of Stenness, the site includes Maeshowe, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and other nearby sites.

 

The surviving stones are sited on a promontory at the south bank of the stream that joins the southern ends of the sea loch Loch of Stenness and the freshwater Loch of Harray. The name, which is pronounced stane-is in Orcadian dialect, comes from Old Norse meaning stone headland. The stream is now bridged, but at one time was crossed by a stepping stone causeway, and the Ring of Brodgar lies about 1.2 km (0.75 mi) away to the north-west, across the stream and near the tip of the isthmus formed between the two lochs. Maeshowe chambered cairn is about 1.2 km (0.75 mi) to the east of the Standing Stones of Stenness and several other Neolithic monuments also lie in the vicinity, suggesting that this area had particular importance.

Although the site today lacks the encircling ditch and bank, excavation has shown that this used to be a henge monument, possibly the oldest in the British Isles. The stones are thin slabs, approximately 300 mm (12 in) thick with sharply angled tops. Four, up to about 5 m (16 ft) high, were originally elements of a stone circle of up to 12 stones, laid out in an ellipse about 32 m (105 ft) diameter on a levelled platform of 44 m (144 ft) diameter surrounded by a ditch.

In other words this is a perfect map of the Egg with the 12 stones for the Signs of the Zodiac.

The ditch is cut into rock by as much as 2 m (6.6 ft) and is 7 m (23 ft) wide, surrounded by an earth bank, with a single entrance causeway on the north side. The abyss.

The entrance faces towards the Neolithic Barnhouse Settlement which has been found adjacent to the Loch of Harray. The Watch Stone stands outside the circle to the north-west and is 5.6 m (18 ft) high. Once there were at least two stones there, as in the 1930s the stump of a second stone was found. Twin pillars.

Other smaller stones include a square stone setting in the centre of the circle platform where cremated bone, charcoal and pottery were found. Bonfires.

There is a great deal of symbolism used here, the list is long.

A picture of the Stones of Stenness features on the cover of Van Morrison's album The Philosopher's Stone, and the Odin stone is depicted on Julian Cope's album Discover Odin.

A description of the experience

The source of the experience

The Ancestors

Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References