The Enigma of the Hill O’ Many Stanes

By Bernie Bell

Having read this piece by Duncan Lunan…. https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/04/03/alexander-thom-star-dates/, I added my thoughts about the Hill O’ Many Stanes.  As it’s not possible to include pictures in the ‘comments’ box,  I thought I’d put my musings together with some pics. and present The Hill O’ Many Stanes to the readers of TON!

It’s a strange, strange place.

I wrote this to archaeo-astronomer Dr. Euan MacKie in 2015, after Mike and I visited the site…..

“The Hill O’ Many Stanes completely flummoxed me! The only thing I could see was that it’s on a slope, not just a flat field, and the rows all go one way and……this all points at some hills way across the sea in – maybe it’s Aberdeenshire? I’m not sure about that. I’d say though, that those stone rows most definitely point at those hills. I did wonder if the hills which the stone rows point at have anything similar on them? And that the shape of those hills might echo the outline of the Camster Cairns – or rather, vice-versa – as they are all in the same area? Just wondering….

A very, very, bizarre place which I am very interested in – as far as I can see, a unique site – and apparently serves no ‘purpose’. Tho’, having said that – some years ago Colin Richards gave a talk about dolmens.

(Addendum….this has since developed into a book, and a more recent talk, about the book…… https://archaeologyorkney.com/2022/02/03/video-discussing-dolmens/ ).

In the original talk, Prof. Richards was saying that many of them can’t have been for burials as the space in the centre is too small, and maybe they were either to impress or as an expression of the concepts/vision of the folk who raised them – or simply to enchant. At question time after the talk a woman asked “To enchant whom?” And my answer was, to consider such things as the Angel of the North – things which just lift the spirit. Also, maybe things which make something of a place which was just – a place. The hill that the Angel of the North is on was just a hill – now it’s where folk go to see the Angel of the North and …wonder…be impressed, gather together on Bank Holidays etc. etc.

That’s what I was thinking about the apparently useless structures which people took/take great trouble to make, but just…..make folk go “Ooooo!” They lift and open people – maybe just long enough to let some light in. Just, maybe, things which are bigger than ourselves – not for a purpose – but, just………………….to remind us, that we are bigger than ourselves.

So, maybe some of these structures were raised to make a place – a place that people went to, to gather and connect, with each other, and/or with……Other.
Maybe the Hill O’ Many Stanes, was one or some of these things, and/or something else, too? Some kind of alignment with the heavens? I don’t know, that’s why I’m so intrigued! I can usually get some idea of a place but the Hill O’ Many Stanes, just flummoxed me!“

The Grey Cairns of Camster are a wonder in themselves…..  https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/03/31/something-about-sound/

And – see what I mean about the shape of the hills/shape of the cairns?  Oh – and it makes me wonder……

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