Prehistoric ceremony

Recumbent stone circles date to the late Neolithic / early Bronze Age transition (around 2000 BC). This is a period of great social change, when a complex society with longstanding communal ceremonial traditions began to place greater emphasis on individual power and prestige. Archaeological excavation has suggested that the cairns within these circles are usually built over a funeral pyre - they are partly ritual monuments and partly funerary monuments.

Broadly dating from the third millennium BC, the standing stones and stone circles of late Neolithic and Bronze Age Scotland are some of our most iconic prehistoric monuments. The purpose of standing stones, stone circles and stone rows is still little understood, although they are assumed to have had some form of religious or ceremonial function.

They may have formed a link to the celestial ‘skyscape’ that ruled the days, seasons and weather, all of which were of great importance within the lives of their builders - generations of the first farmers in Scotland. What is not in doubt is that their positions were deliberately chosen.

The setting is an integral element of the monument. For example, standing stones and stone rows may have acted as markers within the landscape, guiding the eye, the traveller or a ceremonial procession. Small stone circles may have served the needs of the local community, while larger ones may have functioned as regional meeting places for ceremonies to which people travelled from further afield.