Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Ring o' Brodgar, Stenness

The Ring o' Brodgar is one of the four Neolithic monuments that make up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney (a name adopted by UNESCO when it declared these sites as a World Heritage Site in 1999). The other three sites of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney are (1) Maeshowe (a chambered cairn, whose central chamber is aligned so that it is precisely illuminated during the winter solstice; it also contains one of the most extensive collections of Viking runic inscriptions in the world); (2) Skara Brae (a Neolithic settlement dating back to about 3100-2500 BC, and located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Orkney, Scotland); and (3) Standing Stones of Stenness (which are four megaliths not too far from the Ring o'Brodgar, the largest of which is about 19 ft tall).

The Ring o'Brodgar is 340 ft in diameter, and originally contained 60 stones, of which 27 still stand today. The stones - which range in height from about 7 feet to a maximum of a little over 15ft - are set within a circular ditch up to 10 deep, 30 ft wide and 1,200 ft in circumference that was carved out of the solid sandstone bedrock.

It is unknown when the site was built, by whom, or for what purpose (though there are many speculations of course: see, for example, this book by Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, that connects sidereal days, pendulums, the "Minoan foot" - an ancient unit of measure used for the construction of palaces in Crete c.2000 BC - and the planet Venus). Current best estimates place its origin at between 2500 BC and 2000 BC.

More details about the Ring o'Brodgar, and the other monuments making up the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, can be found in this report, published by Historic Scotland.

Personal Note. My wife and I visited the Ring o'Brodgar several times during our stay in Orkney. We were both drawn to its mystery, and enchanted by its timeless aura. As I wandered around with my camera, looking for angles and compositions, dodging the inevitable tourists (such as ourselves) to get clear shots of the stones alone, I felt myself drift in and out of the time of the "here and now" into a more ancient, and ineffable, time; a time that lurks somewhere in the shadows, and is a part of the very fabric of the megaliths themselves.

Mindful observers are seduced with glimpses of a parallel world that coexists with ours, but whose essence transcends the "normal" dimensions perceivable via our physical senses alone.

The Ring o'Brodgar is - for me - a physical symbol of timelessness and transcendence. It is a place for serious contemplation and meditation. A boundary between all that has been forgotten and the just as mysterious unknown future history that is yet to be written.

Through it all - immersed in time (and succumbing to time's inexorable gift of entropy), yet strangely unaffected by it (since its secrets are too old for even time to recall their true origins) - the Ring o'Brodgar's eerie silence beckons with its magical siren call.

I've posted a gallery of shots from our Scotland trip here.


Nic. said...

This is a place I know really well and these photographs are a wonderful interpretation of the ring. The final one in particular offers an viewpoint which I haven't seen before. I have always believed that the Orcadian sky is an integral part of the overall scheme and you have captured that.
The whole area of the Ness of Brodgar is a fascinating one - recent excavations show that there is much, much more to learn - see if you are interested.
Thanks for sharing your inspiring images. - Nic.

katie said...

It is extremely interesting blog; one learns so much plus your photos are truly unique.
What I can not understand that all these places were standing for so long... and nobody found any writing about them. How is that possible?
Anyway reading your blog is always an education - one learns so much plus is surrounded by timeless beauty,
Thank you.

Sean Williams said...

I always find the Standing Stones at Stenness provide excellent angles and ethereal sights. These are great pictures though, we'd love to add them to our site at Heritage Key. Incidentally it's worth pointing out that Skara Brae is in serious danger of being engulfed by the Atlantic, as harsh erosion and winds envelope the Orkney coast.

Susan Jones said...

Lovely blog and stunning photography.

Mariah said...

These pictures are beautiful, especially the top one.

Liz.Photo said...

I hadn't heard of the Ring of Brodgar. I feelas if I am there through your Extraordinary photographs. Thank you so much.