Tomnaverie has a complicated history of use, from about 2500 BC to as recently as the 1600s.
The site seems to have been first used for cremation pyres, leading to the build up of a low mound. Carbon dating reveals a charcoal-rich pit under the position of the original recumbent stone was used about 4,500 years ago. This was followed by construction of a low cairn, which is still visible within the stone circle.
At a later date, the cairn was then enclosed by the recumbent stone circle. The upright stones were set up sockets which cut through the earlier layers. Some have suggested that enclosing the site with the stone circle marked the end of the site’s ritual activity.
Human bones were cremated here in about 1,500 years later, in about 1000 BC. The circle was used again at some point between the 1400s and 1600s, when there was burning on the summit and a pit dug into the centre of the monument, perhaps to receive cremation burials.
The cairn within the stone circle was polygonal, open at the centre, and defined by a kerb of slabs and glacial boulders. Thirteen radial lines linked the cairn to the outer kerb. These lines acted as markers for the placement of the standing stones – suggesting this could have been part of a single, long-term architectural scheme.
A recumbent stone circle
Tomnaverie is a recumbent stone circle, a kind of monument found only in north-east Scotland. There are about 100 of them. They’re defined by a large stone laid on its side (recumbent) , flanked by two upright stones, usually on the south or south-west arc of the circle.
These monuments may have been used for:
- astronomical observation – the midsummer moon would have been framed by the recumbent stone in the south-west
- to frame sacred landscape features – Tomnaverie has a spectacular view of Lochnagar