In 2019, archaelogists studying an "ancient" stone circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, were surprised to discover that it had actually been constructed in the mid-1990s. Though the Macarena may seem a long time ago now, this was a lot less ancient than had previously been believed, by several thousand years.
In this case, the stone circle turned out to be a replica put in place by a diligent farmer and former owner of the land with an interest in the Recumbent Stone Circles of the region. The farmer contacted archaeologists when he realized they had mistaken his replica for the real deal.
“It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story,” Neil Ackerman, a Historic Environment record assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said in a statement at the time.
“These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. For this reason, we include any modern replicas of ancient monuments in our records in case they are later misidentified.”
This is all to illustrate how easy it can be, even for trained archaeologists, to make mistakes of this kind. So you can see how it's possible for an amateur to mistake a rock for cows to scratch their asses on for an ancient and mysterious monolith.
Folklore researcher Ian Powell shared on Twitter that he had spoken to a farmer who claimed that exactly that happened.
Cows love to scratch themselves but are cursed with legs that are unable to get a really good scritch on. So for many years, nice farmers have placed stone monoliths in their fields for their cattle to scratch themselves against, wherever actual ancient stone circles are unavailable.
Apparently, if it's good enough for a cow's butt, it's good enough for New Age types, who set about "worshipping" one butt-scratcher in a farmer's field, according to Powell. They may have stumbled across the butt stone while looking for a "holed stone", highlighted in the background of the photo. "Holed stones" are rocks with natural holes in, which in the Middle Ages were believed to be charms that could repel witchcraft and nightmares.
"When I was last at this Monument, in the year 1749, a very intelligent farmer of the neighbourhood assur'd me, that he had known many persons who had crept through this holed Stone for pains in their back and limbs, and that fanciful parents, at certain times of the year, do customarily draw their young Children thro', in order to cure them of the Rickets," scholar William Borlase wrote in 1754.
But to reiterate, in this case, the people had found a scratching post for cows rather than a holed stone, and refused to budge when the farmer told them it wasn't an ancient relic. Not that it mattered to the farmer.
"In the end, the farmer asked them to leave his field," Powell wrote. "They would not budge so he decided to bring in the herd. They soon left."