What do you make of Heritage and Archaeology – a collection of stories, old stones and relics that are dry as dust, or doors into our shared past that illuminate and enlighten, giving perspective to our common future?

I suspect that for many readers of this blog their lives will revolve around more everyday things – taking the dog for a walk, wondering if the Dons can finish second to Celtic and above Rangers, what new play is on at His Majesty’s or whether it’s going to rain tomorrow (answer this summer, probably yes). However, that’s a shame, because there is a lot to discover about our local heritage and archaeological sites. For a start, did you know that 2017 is the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology? Well if you didn’t, then there are only a few months left to find out more!

Designated as such by the Scottish Government, 2017 has been celebrated by our local authorities and other interested bodies, giving them the chance to bring to the public’s attention the wealth and diversity of archaeological and historical stories and sites that exist in great numbers throughout Aberdeenshire and north-east Scotland generally.

For anyone who takes their dog (or just themselves) for a walk, there are LOTS of places you can go where, not only do you and your canine companion get exercise, you can find out a lot more about the landscape, buildings and history of the area you are walking through.

Our local heritage can be traced back centuries, to c. 12,000 BC or thereabouts. Rumours that the Dons were looking for a new stadium then are untrue but there are lots of amazing pre-historic sites to be explored across the north-east, whether with your faithful hound or just in the company of family and friends. With sites ranging from stone circles through medieval castles to World War II defences there are plenty of fascinating sites to explore in the region.

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 15.05.49For example, did you know that this is one of the most important areas in the country for Stone Circles? There are over 70 Stone Circles in our region and these make up some 10% of ALL Stone Circles found in Great Britain. Not only that, but (probably because they were all made by proto-Aberdonians) they have a unique feature: what is known as a “Recumbent Stone.” Essentially, this is a whopping big stone, laid on its side in the southern arc of the circle and with the two tallest stones of the circle on each side of it. It is believed that this layout of the stones was done to tie in with the moon’s movements; specifically what is referred to as a “major standstill moon,” which occurs every 18.6 years. This video of a Major Lunar Standstill from the Stone Circle at Calanais on the Isle of Lewis shows what actually happens. It’s rather mesmeric and makes us realise that for all our modern advances, the ancients were extremely sophisticated when it came to the movements of the stars and planets. And that’s something to ponder the next time you take the dog (or indeed friends and family) for a walk. If you’d like to know more, Aberdeenshire Council has created a Stone Circle Trail for those interested and you can find out more details here. Time for some exercise?

Julie Skinner, Resourcing & Benefit Specialist
Email: j.skinner@rgu.ac.uk