A deep sense of time, history, and mystery hangs thick in the countryside of northern Scotland – but not so much anymore in the small parish of Leochel-Cushnie, Aberdeenshire.
Archaeologists have come to realize that a stone circle in the parish, once believed to be an ancient monument, is actually a modern replica. The disappointment was only revealed after a former owner of the farm on which the monument is found contacted an archaeologist at Historic Environment Scotland just before Christmas and admitted to building it in the 1990s.
“It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story,” Neil Ackerman, Historic Environment Record Assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said in a statement.
“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.”
When the stones were recently rediscovered by the farm’s current owner, they were widely believed to be a Recumbent Stone Circle. Scotland is home to around 100 of these mysterious structures that date back to the Bronze Age, between 3,500 and 4,500 years ago. Their purpose varied from place to place, but they were generally used as sites to bury cremated bodies or for rituals related to the Moon.
At the time of discovery, archaeologists noted that the circle’s circumference was a little on the small side, however, the stones appeared to be otherwise identical to the real deal. It turns out, the old farmer was actually very knowledgeable about local history and interested in stone monuments.
“That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation, and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community,” Ackerman added.
“I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed – while not ancient it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape," he continued.
"We always welcome reports of any new, modern reconstructions of ancient monuments, especially those built with the skill of this stone circle and that reference existing monument types.”
While this instance was simply an innocent mistake, the world of archaeology is not immune to fakes and forgeries of a sinister nature. Just last year, a famed archaeologist was accused of faking some of his biggest finds. James Mellaart, who died in 2012, is suspected of forging documents throughout his career as well as inventing translations of allegedly 3,000-years-old documents.