The Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar is a Neolithic henge and stone circle in Orkney, Scotland. Most henge do not contain stone circles; Brodgar is a striking exception, ranking with Avebury  among the greatest of such sites.

The ring of stones stands on a small isthmus between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray. These are the northernmost examples of circle henge in Britain.Unlike similar structures such as Avebury, there are no obvious stones inside the circle,but since the interior of the circle has never been excavated by archaeologists, the possibility remains that wooden structures, for example, may be present.

The site has resisted attempts at scientific dating and the monument’s age remains uncertain. It is generally thought to have been erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC, and was, therefore, the last of the great Neolithic monuments built on the Ness.

A project called The Ring of Brodgar Excavation 2008 was undertaken in the summer of the year in an attempt to settle the age issue and help answer other questions about a site that remains relatively poorly understood.The results of the excavation are still preliminary

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The stone circle is 104 meters (341 ft) in diameter, and the third largest in the British Isles. The ring originally comprised 60 stones, of which only 27 remained standing at the end of the 20th century. The tallest stones stand at the south and west of the ring. The stones are set within a circular ditch up to 3 meters (9.8 ft) deep, 9 metres (30 ft) wide and 380 meters (1,250 ft) in circumference that was carved out of the solid sandstone bedrock by the ancient residents.Technically, this ditch does not constitute a true henge as there is no sign of an encircling bank of earth and rock. Many archaeologists continue to refer to this structure as a henge; for example, Aubrey Burl classifies the ditch as a Class II henge; one that has two opposing entrances, in this case on the north-west and south-east.

Examination of the immediate environs reveals a concentration of ancient sites, making a significant ritual landscape. Within 2 square miles (5.2 km2) there are the two circle-henge, four chambered tombs, groups of standing stones, single stones, barrows, cairns, and mounds.The immediate area has also yielded a number of flint arrowheads and broken stone mace-heads that seem to date from the Bronze Age.

Although its exact purpose is not known, the proximity of the Standing Stones of Stenness and its Maeshowe tomb make the Ring of Brodgar a site of major importance. The site is a scheduled ancient monument and has been recognized as part of the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney” World Heritage Site in 1999.