Stone circle

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Drombeg Stone Circle, County Cork, Ireland

A stone circle (also known as a ring or dance ) is a rounded arrangement of upright (or lying) stones that does not serve as a border. They usually do not include anything and can usually be entered from all sides. The Welsh term Cromlech , the Basque Harrespil (plur. Harrespilak ) and the Scandinavian term Domarring are somewhat broader.

Large stones set in a circle were also used to surround dolmens , burial mounds , gate cairns or similar structures. Some henges , including Avebury and the Ring of Brodgar , have stone circles, but are not referred to as stone circles either.

The oldest circles are the approximately 175,000 year old stone circles created by Neanderthals in the Bruniquel cave in France .


British Isles stone circles

"The Hurlers", North Circle, Liskeard, Cornwall
Merry Maidens , Cornwall

The vast majority of stone circles are in the British Isles . John Barnatt presented a systematic list. At least 176 are known in England. In addition, 60 wood and pit circles were listed here. The shapes vary from the regular oval to the egg shape to the flattened version. The four-post stone circle does not fit into any of these categories .

Stone circles are particularly common in Cornwall , Northern Ireland and Ireland (in County Cork ) and on the River Dee in Scotland . Aubrey Burl (1926–2020) believed that stone circles were a British invention. Some researchers consider them to be a transfer of the henges made of wooden stakes ( Woodhenge or Timber Circle ), which are widespread in the Lowlands , into the regions equipped with lithic resources. There is a north-south trending zone in which both henges and stone circles occur. Nine of the 13 largest British stone circles are in this overlap zone. Stone circles were created between 2100 and 700 BC. BC, i.e. in the late Neolithic and the Bronze Age . There are twelve stone circles on the Channel Islands . The height of the stones is between about 0.3 and over 3.0 meters and can vary in the same circle.


On the main island, according to A. Burl, the Lake District was the center of origin of the megalithic , about 30 m wide stone circles ( Castlerigg ), which are said to be about the same age as the Stones of Stenness (on Orkney ), for which a 14 C dating on 3040 BC Chr. Exists. In general, based on the dating of the " Great Langdale Bile" found there, an origin around 3400 to 3200 BC is assumed. Adopted. The most famous of these stone circles is Mitchell's Fold in Shropshire . In Cornwall are the u. a. Merry Maidens and The Hurlers . There are also, primarily in Wales , the " Embanked Stone Circle " and the Ring Cairns .


Stone circles lie on valley floors, on river terraces, on low passes and near bodies of water. The heavily destroyed stone circle of Lochmaben near Gretna Green could be traced back to 3275 BC. To be dated. In Cumbria the average diameter for stone circles is 37 m, while for Henges it is 73 m. Later the circles got bigger and 14 of them are more than 61 m in diameter.

The Callanish Stone Circles are among the largest megalithic formation known in the British Isles today . They are on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides .

On the River Dee, the “ Recumbent Stone Circles ” represent a genre of their own. One example is Nine Stanes . Their peculiarity is that the circle of upright stones is interrupted at one point by an altar stone , which lies horizontally and is closely flanked by two often horn-like pointed stones. The modified special form is also widespread with a few copies in Ireland .

Perthshire is the main distribution area of ​​the small Four Post Stone Circles (e.g. Goatstones ), which also occur on the River Dee ( Aboyne Stone Circle ). Five Stanes is located in the Scottish Borders .


(Outliers - Stone Circle Kealkil English outliern ) and Cairn with radial stone settings (foreground right)
Bridal drawer Boitin Mecklenburg

Seán ó Nualláin distinguishes four local groups:

The oldest known rings date from the Irish Bronze Age , which started around 2000 BC. Began. They are the Beaghmore stone circles (1600 BC) near Cookstown ( Ulster , Northern Ireland). Some of them consist of hundreds, sometimes only head-sized stones, so they are largely amegalithic. The Beaghmore circles are touching. Before they were discovered, they were overgrown by raised bogs.

The Irish stone circles are between three and 60 meters in diameter and are concentrated in Counties Tyrone (Northern Ireland) and Cork , where the Iron Age Drombeg Stone Circle is the best preserved and the Templebryan North stone circle is one of the larger. In the poor districts in the west and east of the island , the 19 circles at Lough Gur ( Grange Stone Circle ) in County Limerick , the Stone Circles of Glebe in County Mayo and the Pipers Stones in County Wicklow stand out. Some are surrounded by walls and moats. They can enclose boulder burials , a menhir , but also passage tombs .

The circles in Ulster are on the plateau south of the Sperrin Mountains , are larger in diameter, but the stones themselves are mostly smaller and rarely higher than a meter. The Ulster circles often occur in moor areas and as a group and are accompanied by menhirs or alignments. The largest stone circles are Grange (113 stones 48 m in diameter) in County Limerick and Beltany tops (64 of 100 stones are 44 m in diameter) with the remains of a cairn in the center.


Cashelkeelty West

Concentrated in County Cork is a group of rather inconspicuous small stone circles (e.g. Carrigagulla, Cullomane, Glanbrack), which became known as the Five-stone-circle . The shape is also found in County Kerry ( Cashelkeelty ) and on the British main island ( Druid's Circle , Five Stanes near Jedburgh). Another group is called radial stone cairns ( Kealkill , Knocknakilla, Knockraheen 1 ) because the stones point with their narrow side towards the center.

Sweden, Norway

Domarring ( German  "Richterring" ) is the Swedish name for a stone circle ( Norwegian Steinsirkler ). Mårten Stenberger (1898–1973) counted this type of find among the ship settlements . They are numerous in many southern Swedish provinces and particularly common in Västergötland . Most of them can be found in the Jönköpings län and Skaraborgs län regions . Slightly more than 50 are documented in Norway ( cemetery of Istrehågan , Stoplesteinan , Zwölfsteinring of Moelv ). The term "Domarring" can be traced back to earlier times. The circles were associated with the jurisprudence and thought that a certain odd number of judges in the circles gave judgments.

Usually they consist of five, seven, nine or twelve medium-sized field stones or boulders , which are arranged in a circle with larger gaps and lie together individually or in smaller groups. The largest ring is on the Blomsholm burial ground . It is 33 m in diameter and consists of ten stones. There are circles with more than 30 stones.

Continental Europe

Harrespil Okabe, near Lecumberry (Pyrénées-Atlantiques)

Stone circles occur in limited numbers in Brittany ( Er Lannic ), in the Midi (here some are called Harrespil in Basque ) and on the Iberian Peninsula ( Almendres , Portela de Mogos ). Burl dates the stone circle of Er-Lannic to the end of the Neolithic because of the conguel ceramic found in the northern circle .

Younger stone circles can be found in Switzerland and Scandinavia . In Sweden, this genus, which is the most widespread in the north, is called Domarringar , which means (Richter rings). The Domarring on the cemetery of Blomsholm in Sweden has a diameter of 33 m, the Stoplesteinane near Eigersund in Rogaland Norway have a diameter of 21 m.

One of the few significant stone circles in Germany is the Boitiner stone dance in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania , whereas the stone circle of Darmstadt has only been investigated through local research. The 12 stone circles from Odry in Poland and Viking Age grave circles belong to the youngest genus, they come from the Iron Age .

Africa and Asia

Nabta-Playa stone circle in Africa
Faux stone circle

The predynastic stone circles of Nabta-Playa in the Sahara have not yet been researched. Smaller stone circles can also be found in the Berber regions in southern Morocco (e.g. near Taouz ), which - through the caravan trade - could have a certain relationship to the North African Bazinas , but much has not yet been explored. There are around 50 Senegambian stone circles in Senegal and Gambia . At least one specimen was discovered in northern Liberia . Stone circles can also be found on Malta ( Brochtorff Circle ), India, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria and Kyrgyzstan .


Richard Bradley has pointed out that in the British Isles almost all monuments built between 3000 and 1500 were circular. This also agrees with the house shape since the grooved-ware culture. Unlike most other monuments, however, stone circles can be entered from all sides

In Scandinavia it was assumed that the stone circles were thing places . The stones of the Domarringar therefore represented the seats of the judges and the committee. With the beginning of the 19th century, the interpretation as grave sites became more common. This thesis was reinforced with the discovery of graves that were found within the rings (e.g. on Öland ). In Scandinavia they are dated from the Early Bronze Age to before the Viking Age by radiocarbon dating.

Modern replicas

A stone circle at Knock in the Bathgate Hills, about two miles northeast of Bathgate in West Lothian, with 50 stones arranged in two concentric circles in a roadside field, was built in 1998 as a 50th birthday surprise for the farmer by his son. He is certainly the most elaborate example of modern circles. The Balquhidder and Bealach Driseach on Loch Voil, both in Scotland, also fall into this category.

See also


Web links

Commons : stone circles  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Aubrey Burl: The Stone circles of the British Isles. Yale University Press, New York 1976, p. 8.
  2. ^ Richard Bradley: The significance of Monuments: On the shaping of human experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe. Routledge, London 1998, pp. 129-130
  3. ^ Aubrey Burl: The Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Britanny. Yale University Press, New Haven 2000, p. 5.
  4. ^ John Barnatt: Stone circles of Britain, taxonomic and sistributional analyzes and a catalog of sites in England, Scotland and Wales. BAR, BAR British series 215, Oxford 1989, ISBN 0860547019 .
  6. Circles whose ring stones are set within or on a low, wide stone or earth wall. According to Aubrey Burl's three-phase theory of the development of the stone circles, these circles fall into the middle period (2670-1975 BC)
  7. Ring Cairns are round or oval stone walls (without menhirs), with a free space in the middle, which in some cases was later filled in. Although burials have been found in some, this does not seem to have been the original purpose. They could be thought of as stone circles, as real stone circles are rare in the Ringcairns' area in southeast Wales. The platform of the cairn is not always visible without excavations.
  8. Aubrey Burl: Guide des dolmesn et menhirs of Bretons. Errance, Paris, p. 24.
  9. M. Schmidt: The old stones. P. 58.
  10. Leo Frobenius , On the way to Atlantis - report on the course of the second travel period of the Diafe in the years 1908 to 1910 . Vita Deutsches Verlagshaus, Berlin 1911, 1st chapter.
  11. ^ Richard Bradley: The significance of Monuments: On the shaping of human experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe. London, Routledge 1998, 132
  12. ^ Richard Bradley: The significance of Monuments: On the shaping of human experience in Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe. Routledge, London 1998, pp. 129-130
  13. gates Artelius: Domarringar i Västsverige. Page 42ff.