Stone hunters in the United Kingdom have free and ready
access to what are arguably the best maps in the world. The
Ordnance Survey of Great Britain produces maps that allow
the hunter of ancient stones to find thousands of stones
across the length and breadth of the country and most of
these stones are recognised as being ancient i.e. they were
erected some time between around 4000 BC to 500 BC. Okay,
thatís fine. Now the interesting bit.
It has been estimated that only around 10% of the stone
circles and standing stones that once existed, can still be
seen in the landscape today. That means that a whopping 90%
are gone. Some will have been deliberately destroyed beyond
any hope of recovery and some will simply have been lost or
forgotten. And itís the stones that have been lost or
forgotten that interest us here.
In my own area, that of the South of Scotland, I have
detailed around 200 or so ancient stones, give or take a few
and not being too accurate as to whether they can be
classified as properly ancient or not. That means that
another 1800 stones have been destroyed, lost or forgotten.
And to my way of thinking some of them must still be out
It is unlikely we are going to find true standing stones
or stone circles as our country is just too small and too
well trodden for this to happen. Stones that have been
buried will continue to turn up on occasion but you are not
going to stubble upon any lost circles when you wander
through the local woods.
Now, that leaves us with other types of stone such as
named stones and boundary stones. These stones are often
simply forgotten and lie waiting to be found under ancient
hedgerows and along old county and parish boundaries.
Finding these stones is quite easy but does require some
luck. You will need to get hold of an old map showing the
local parish or country boundary first of all. Then its just
a case of walking the boundary and having a good poke around
as you do so. You never know what might turn up.
This brings me onto the subject of other types of sacred
stones and the matter of stone worship. Although I have been
unable to find much on this matter with respect to the
United Kingdom but have discovered that in Japan, natural
stone and rock outcrops are still worshipped to this day.
These sacred stones were called iwakura and each stone or
group of stones has a supernatural force known as mononoke,
a resident spirit or deity that lives in the stones or
stones. If natural stones and rock outcrops were, and still
are treated as sacred sites in Japan, did similar activities
ever take place here in our forgotten past?
Even here in the South of Scotland there are many such
stones and places that are not marked on maps or recognised
as having any archaeological significance whatsoever. One
good example is the large erratic boulder that stands on the
west side of Dunsapie Hill in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh - 019 Stone, Holyrood Park,
seems amazing that this huge stone has survived the passage
of time in such an ancient city as Edinburgh. I wonder if
the reason that is has survived is due to it having some
sacred meaning in the past, although this has now been
forgotten. Another site that comes to mind can be found near
the south shore of Loch Skeen, in the Tweedsmuir Hills.
There are many dozens of massive boulders and slabs lying in
the heather, all of glacial origin. I often wonder if this
was a sacred site in the past and that our ancient ancestors
worshiped the stones at this amazing location. Many other
similar sites no doubt exist elsewhere in the region.
With so many stones lost and forgotten, it goes without
saying that any stone you find surviving in the landscape
may have had some significance in the past. But how can you
tell and ancient stone from a good old lump of rock?
Personally, I think the clues are to be found in the
landscape. Any stone that has been placed there has been
placed there for a reason. The stone had a purpose and all
you need to do is try and find that purpose. (See Reading
The Landscape for more.)
Even stones that were worshipped were chosen because they
were something special, they had something that made then
stand out from other stones. What this could have been is
difficult to say but the next time you find an unusual
stone, it could well worth trying to look through the eyes
of our early ancestor and trying to envisage what he saw and
felt about the stone in question. You never know what you