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6. Comparator Sites in north east Scotland and the Nature of Society

Figure 16  Figure 17

Figure 16: The pit alignment at Balendoch recorded as cropmarking on a rectified oblique aerial photograph. PT14778re (1983 © Crown Copyright RCAHMS 2013. This image is not covered by CC-BY 3.0 and permission will be required for any further use).
Figure 17: Midwinter solstice viewed from Balendoch. Grey lines indicate pits located from aerial photography.

The issues raised by the site at Warren Field are considerable. Although the interpretation presented above is attractive and conforms to the available evidence, and also to our present understanding of Mesolithic societies, the most immediate problem relates to whether the structure and its relationship to the topography is simply a coincidence. Ruggles suggests that such an issue is probably best confirmed or falsified though analysis of comparator sites (Ruggles and Cotte 2010, 28). The original excavators had carried out an initial survey of the regional aerial photographic evidence and had identified a number of potential comparator sites (Murray et al. 2009, 24-25). This work was extended with the assistance of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS). Pit alignments form a rather incoherent group and range between the remains of grubbed out hedgerows, later prehistoric boundaries and alignments of uncertain function (Cowley 2009, 222). There is, however, a monument group loosely described by Commission staff as 'wandering splodges' and these were targeted for a provisional study. Some sites thrown up by the literature search, such as at Drumoak, were only superficially similar to Warren Field (Suddaby 2005), but two sites, at Balendoch and Arrat, were so alike that the RCAHMS' aerial photographic rectifications for these alignments were incorporated into the project's analytical software for study. It is clear that both possess characteristics that are extremely similar to the pit group at Warren Field although, of course, excavation or detailed remote sensing survey might well provide additional evidence that would falsify such an assertion. The primary alignment/view of these sites is to the south-east and the far horizon, at Balendoch at least, provides a prominent topographic backdrop against which the midwinter rising sun would be highlighted (Figures 16 and 17). The generally lesser prominence of the horizon at Arrat, of course, need not reflect the importance of less prominent topographic features to past societies (Figures 18 and 19). Not surprisingly the long alignments of these monuments are similar to that at Warren Field, although the caution expressed regarding the significance of such geometry applies here equally. Although further work on these pit groups is required these two sites, a relatively short distance from Warren Field (Figure 1), begin to suggest that there could be a previously unidentified monument group in north-eastern Scotland that possess similar physical characteristics, a link with the lunar cycle, and have alignments associated with the midwinter solstice.

Figure 18  Figure 19

Figure 18: The pit alignment at Arrat recorded as cropmarking on a rectified oblique aerial photograph. E11616re (2001 © Crown Copyright RCAHMS 2013. This image is not covered by CC-BY 3.0 and permission will be required for any further use).
Figure 19: Midwinter solstice viewed from Arrat. Grey lines indicate pits located from aerial photography.


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