The standing stones of Stenness

Submitted by Owen McCafferty on Wed, 2009-11-18

These are very near to the Ring of Brodgar. A small stone circle dating from the third millennium BC, originally it had 12 stones. Various traditions associated with the stones survived into the modern era and they form part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site.

The majority of ancient sites are mysterious because we’re never exactly sure how they were used, or by how many individuals. But on Mainland, Orkney, at the prehistoric village of Skara Brae, the people are almost tangible and for once, everything seems so familiar. The houses seem impossibly modern. Five thousand years old but with recessed shelving, dressers and, most extraordinary of all, a drainage system. The village is also not far from the island’s other “show sites”: the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, the latter being the third largest Henge in the whole of Britain.

The circle originally had a diameter of 31.7m (104 ft) and a total of 12 stones. Now only four unusually shaped stones remain; the tallest is about 5 m (16 ft) high, but not far away at the southern edge of the Bridge of Brodgar, is an even taller stone of 5.6m (18.5 ft) high and known as the Watch Stone. This may have been part of a line of standing stones linking the Stones of Stenness with the nearby Ring of Brodgar.

The most famous of these stones are the Ring o’ Brodgar and the Standing Stones o’ Stenness but these are by no means the only ones. Most visitors venture no further than the Stenness complexes – the heart of prehistoric Orkney – which is a pity for there are a number on the outer islands that deserve a visit. Away from the Mainland are stones such as the Fingersteen and the Yetnasteen. Various traditions associated with the stones survived into the modern era and they form part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. Stenness is a unique and early expression of the ritual customs of the people who buried their dead in tombs like Maes Howe and lived in settlements like Skara Brae

Also read:
http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/monoliths/index.html

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