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19 September 2014
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Mysteries in Stone

Hill O' Many Stanes'The Hill O' Many Stanes' - But Why So Many?

The Hill O’Many Stanes is to be found at Mid Clyth in Caithness, the most northerly county on mainland Britain. It is one of the most peculiar prehistoric sites in the country. Within the area of about 60 square yards there are 22 parallel rows of over 200 flagstone boulders - all running north to south. None of the stones rise above the height of two feet and there are no clues as to this amazing arrangement.

Legend has it that the site was the scene of a battle between the warmongering clans, the Keiths and the Gunns. The Gunns were the victors and buried the dead in a row, marking the head of each dead clansman with a stone. So the 'the many stanes' are in fact headstones. This, however, seems unlikely, as the stone formation appears to be from the Bronze Age - it is doubtful whether Keiths and Gunns were fighting in the Bronze Age. Still, this explanation seems more plausible than UFO Landing Strip theories.

Stones of Stenness
The Stones of StennessBritain used to have many more Stone Circles and Henges than are left to us today. Over the years superstition and the practicalities of farming the land have meant that many stones were destroyed, toppled, broken up, or used for building purpose, although perhaps the Orkney farmers have had more reason than most to destroy the stones. You can barely plough a field in Orkney without unearthing a henge, tomb, or Neolithic village.

So it was that on Christmas day 1914 Captain W MacKay, in a fit of pique at the amount of visitors tramping about his field, broke up one of the famous Stones of Stenness - a stone known as Odin's Stone.

His wanton vandalism cost him dearly because there were two attempts to burn his house down. Enraged tourists, or angry spirits? Theories abound. Though many legends maintain that the Stones of Stenness are giants, turned to stone by the rising sun, whether these giants were prone to arson is question many have asked.

In fact, many folk tales refer to standing stones as petrified giants. Often these tales are on the theme of early Christian saints taming the pagan gods, who they replaced with the 'true God'. The Stones of Callanish on the Isle of Lewis were apparently created from the old giants who lived on the island - turned to stone by St. Kieran as a punishment for refusing to be Christianised.

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