Archive

Neolithic Chambered Cairns

“Cairnholy Joe” – a man on a mission; to enlighten visitors to the eponymous chambered cairn so that they might understand the meaning of this “monument”. Now this is not a conventional view purely based on the archaeology – way too prosaic – much more than that it is an aesthetic view of the world seen through the lens of the remains of this most architectural of prehistoric structures. Now there are many simple yet impressive Neolithic structures around the country but not many people seem to spend so much time observing the world from one such place these days.

Christening, D & G 012

It seems many people you meet who have visited here also encountered this aesthete whose name it turns out is Joseph Proskauer who describes him self on his blog as: “Lives with his wife and many other creatures, slightly below the surface of earth, toward the point where the sun sets in the dark days of winter – as seen from Cairn Holy.” Unravelling the mysteries of Cairnholy appears to be his destiny. He has studied in infinite detail the relationships between the stones and solar and lunar alignments so that the eight standing stones of the forecourt perform as some sort of complex sundial fulfilling the necessary calendrical functions  and spiritual insights of the Neolithic people who constructed it.

After some interesting discussions around the subjects I was advised to cross the neighbouring field where a dead straight path had been worn, presumably by himself and his “pupils” (or was it Alfred Watkins Old Straight Track!), and approach the forecourt and observe – this is how it looked.

Christening, D & G 013

Christening, D & G 014

Christening, D & G 016

Christening, D & G 017

Christening, D & G 018

Christening, D & G 010

Now being one who is interested in the relationship of prehistoric archaeology has to  landscape I noted that it appeared that the focus of the structure from this direction was one of two rounded hillocks on the skyline; perhaps echoing the female form. Wrong! I should have been observing the stones – in particular;  that whilst the four stones on left hand side of the forecourt curved in a slight arc those on the right were straight, but also the three outside stones of each side both rise to the right (north). These are certainly intriguing observations although I was not paying enough attention at the time to remember the import of this piece of the jigsaw.

Christening, D & G 009

Of course there were many other observations Joe made including the unrecorded weathered  pecked area of rock and cup mark on the edge of one of the southerly orthostats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Virtually invisible when the sun is high but on return to the stones in darkness and controlled lighting it came alive.

Christening, D & G 195

In darkness my own senses were heightened, as peoples must have been in prehistory when viewed at night – the stone would be seen to dance in the firelight – hearths were found in the forecourt when the site was dug by Stuart Piggott and T G E Powell, whose report can be seen here.

Christening, D & G 200

Moon dog stones!

Although Piggot and Powell found a cup and ring marked slab placed in the chamber along with a slab disturbed from the cairn marked with cup and rings they missed this marking of the facade stone. We can pehaps only speculate when this mark was made as it was likely that the walling between the orthostats would have covered this mark when the structure was first built. This is one of the rare occurrences when cup and ring marked rocks are found within a chambered cairn the other notable example being in Dallaides Long Cairn, also a rare piece of burnt jadeite axe from the Italian Alps was found here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So people have been doing pretty strange things here for millenia. On reflection despite Joe’s apparent disinterest in the factual elements of the archaeologists excavations and his apparent oversight that the reconstruction of the facade sixty five years ago means that it is most likely that it was not as we see it today when it was first built. His reconstructions of the points of the stones with clay may also be speculative but we can perhaps never be sure that it was not so and that the things he sees in this structure are as not valid as the interpretations put upon these most architectural of structures by archaeologists. Maybe it is as important how these structures feed back to modern people, be they believers in Neo-paganism, Wicca or Witchcraft,  Earth Gods or Goddess’, any of the more mainstream religions or combinations of any or all of these. Who knows if it was not always the case that from their inception people have drawn different inspirations or energies from these places.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Acknowledgements and Notes; Thanks to Joseph for stimulating conversation! I was reminded of my meeting with Joe after seeing a blog by Upland Pete on Cairn holy. These meetings came about from a cottage rented below Cairnholy in 2012 and occupied by three archaeologists (rock art fiends) a story teller and an architect, thanks Kate, Tertia, Debbie and Anthony.

Pete

Advertisements
The First Ten Words by Rich Larson

Because a guy has to keep his chops sharp

Palaeoman

Living the dream of a prehistoric human

Archaeology and Heritage Digital Recording

Low cost recording technologies

The Stone Rows of Great Britain

Big, Small, Short, Tall, Have we got 'em all?

northshorepottery

studio pottery and ceramic sculpture by Jenny Mackenzie Ross

FragmeNTs

from the National Trust archaeology team in the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site

Duddon Dig

The survey and excavation of three longhouses in the Duddon Valley

Neil's Mountains

Exploring the mountains and wild places of Britain and Ireland

Archaeology Orkney

Blog for the University of The Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute. Please feel free to share any post.

Neolithic And Early Bronze Age Research Student Symposium

Annual Conference for Postgraduate Researchers

Stonehenge Neolithic Houses

An English Heritage experimental archaeology project to recreate houses from 2500 BC