Researchers are investigating a recently discovered stone circle that is located close to the well-known Calanais Standing Stones monument which was constructed between 2900 and 2600 BC in the Isle of Lewis, Scotland.
The new monument consists of a series of stones placed to create a circular pattern where traces of at least one lightning strike exist. Scientists believe that the monument was deliberately built to attract a bolt of lightning.
The erection of such rock monuments was mainly provoked by Neolithic people's interest in the changes of the Sun's positions and the seasons. The new evidence reveals that natural phenomena such as lightning bolts may have also been significantly admired by people during that period.
The ancient rock circle was discovered during a project conducted by Dr. Richard Bates, an archaeologist and Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and his research team. The purpose of the project was to detect hidden monuments near the Calanais Stones. Due to the fact that the area is currently coved by marshes, scientists utilized non-invasive remote sensing techniques, including electrical resistivity tomography and electromagnetic surface mapping, to assess the substratum.
The research team found out that the circle was hit by lightnings as a magnetic abnormality was detected in its center. Scientists cannot determine whether this anomaly was caused by one or multiple lightnings. Moreover, the exact time of the events (before or after the construction of the monument) could not also be derived. Nevertheless, Dr. Bates believes that the fact that the lightning struck at the center of the circle cannot be incidental. “Whether the lightning at Site XI (the new-found monument) focused on a tree or rock which is no longer there, or the monument itself attracted strikes, is uncertain. However, this remarkable evidence suggests that the forces of nature could have been intimately linked with everyday life and beliefs of the early farming communities on the island,” Dr. Bates, stated.
The authors emphasize the worship and respect of Neolithic people for nature and suggest that further research should be conducted to reveal more monuments that may be hidden below the ground. “The archaeological literature increasingly recognizes the symbiotic role between culture and nature in the past and, if that were the case at Site XI, this survey demonstrates the benefit of exploring buried landscapes of the western Hebrides through careful use of different remote sensing techniques," the scientific team stated.