Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Mapping the Circle

For some time we've wanted to draw a map of this magnificent stone circle, some 12 metres across, which stands a knoll with views across Ardnamurchan Estate land.  It's one of the treasures of the area, though quite what it is remains uncertain.  So it may be the remains of a Neolithic kerb cairn, or part of an Iron Age hut circle. Whatever it is, it's likely to be at least 2,000 years old.

We've tried mapping it using a digital camera raised on a 30 foot scaffolding pole, but the patchwork of pictures proved incomprehensible.  Now the job has been done by....

....Dave Brown, a landscape architect who is based in Cambridge but spends part of his year on West Ardnamurchan.  January isn't the ideal month for this sort of work, and the day chosen was one of bright intervals divided by heavy hail showers, but at least it was warm enough not to freeze Dave's fingers.

The method used was to lay down a string across the diameter of the circle, running north-south, which was marked at one metre intervals.  From this, using a tape measure, metre squares were laid out at right angles.  Dave then hand-drew, with great patience and considerable skill, the outcrop of every single rock onto a grid.

This is the result of Dave's labours.  It shows, very clearly, that most of the rocks now lie outside the (dashed) line of the flat top of the knoll, having been rolled or thrown down it.  In two areas, to south and west, there are more rocks than elsewhere.  One explanation for this pattern is that, while erosion has caused many rocks to roll down the slope, a deliberate excavation was carried out with the debris being dumped in these two areas.

The map only shows those stones which protrude through the turf.  A next step may be to peel back the layer of soil covering the site, and do the whole job again.

A group called Ardnamurchan Community Archaeology has been set up to find, identify, map and, hopefully, excavate some of the sites scattered across this landscape.  It's open to both visitors and residents.  Anyone wishing to join please contact the Diary.

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