Historic Scotland

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History

An elaborate mystery

We don’t know who erected the stones on the Hill o’ Many Stanes 4,000 years ago, or why. A few theories have been put forward regarding their use:

  • like stone circles, they may have been used for gatherings or religious ceremonies
  • they could have been used to follow the solar and lunar cycles
  • they might have been used to organise the farming cycle

Whatever the purpose of the stones, it’s clear that they were carefully planned. Considerable time, effort and organisation must have been expended by the community to make them.

We know Scotland’s prehistoric inhabitants were interested in astronomy from sites such as Maeshowe, Clava Cairns and the Ring of Calanais. Could the Hill o’ Many Stanes serve an astronomical purpose?

About 200 thin stones are laid out in at least 22 rows running from north to south, radiating from a rocky knoll to the north. They’re generally thin slabs facing across the rows and packed at the bases with smaller stones. Small hollows packed with stones to the east of the monument indicate there were once further rows here.