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Clava Cairns and Circles
By George Bain

The subject to which I wish to direct your attention this evening is that of “The Cairns and Circles” so abundantly scattered over the Valley of the Naira. So numerous are they, it is impossible for any one to move about the district without having his attention challenged by their appearance, and his interest quickened in the discussion of questions connected with their origin and structure.

The subject of these remains, I am perfectly well aware, has been a matter of familiar study to many members of this Society, and, therefore, in laying before you the observations I shall make to-night. I do so not in the expectation that I will add anything to what you already know, but simply to revive the discussion, and to concentrate attention on certain points of importance.

The whole ground has been most carefully and exhaustively mapped by Mr James Fraser, of Inverness; and perhaps I may be permitted to say that, by his labours, he has rendered a most important service, not only to the archaeology of the district, but also to the history of the country. With very few exceptions, indeed, Mr Fraser has noted and described all these remains to be found in Nairnshire, and it is, therefore, unnecessary that I should enumerate or describe them in detail. The highest development of these structures, as you are aware, is attained in the group of chambered cairns and circles at Clava, which is locally situated in Nairnshire, and I will ask you to accompany me in imagination to that interesting spot for a few minutes.

It is one of the charms of scientific pursuits in this district that they lead one into natural scenery of a very attractive description. It is a further enjoyment, I think, that, whilst investigating remains that are prehistoric, we are seldom far removed from scenes that have historical associations often of a very interesting character.

Having this feeling, we naturally pause for a moment or two, before going down the brae at Leanach, among the grassy mounds and memorial stones on Culloden Moor. Here we have the graves of those poor Highlanders who fought so gallantly in an ill-fated cause. As one of our northern poets exclaims—

Field of Culloden, be peaceful to-day,
Fateful for Britain was thy bloody fray.

* * * * *
While history lives, still poets shall sing
Thy desperate valour, gallant right wing;
Heroes ye fell on Culloden Moor,
Noble your end, though that end all deplore.

But leaving the Moor of Culloden, with its sad though heroic memories, we pass Leanach farm-house, and cross the river Nairn, which flows softly and sweetly in the valley between its own favourite fringe of alders.

You now see, on the south bank of the river, a piece of uncultivated ground. The place seems crowded with stones—some loosely scattered, others in heaps or cairns, whilst a number of pillars (or stones on end) are seen curiously dotting the ground. At this distance—that is, from the corner of the bridge—you would at once conclude that it was a neglected churchyard. On nearer approach and closer examination, however, you find the remains of three very large cairns, the hearts of which have been, as it were, dug out (or opened from the top) ; also the remains of some smaller heaps, and a number of standing stones ranged in the form of circles more or less complete—the huge stones standing like sentinels round the larger cairns. The iron-grey colour of the stones tells of long exposure, and the rude characteristics of the whole place speak unmistakably of remote times.

Examining in detail the Western Cairn, we find in its centre the remains of a stone-built chamber of circular form, 12½ feet in diameter—the stones laid vertical for a few feet from the foundation, and then built on the concentric ring in courses inclining inwards; that is to say, each course projects a little beyond the one below it, and thus, as the building is carried up, it assumes the form of a dome, which, when complete, would have given the chamber the height of an ordinary sized room, some 10 or 12 feet The top of the dome is now removed, having been taken down when the cairn was opened some fifty years ago. The builders of the chamber, of course, never intended that access should be gained to the interior by the top, any more than we should expect that our dwellings should be entered by a hole in the roof, for they had provided a regularly-built entrance, from 2 to 3 feet wide and 4 to 5 feet high, from the south-west. This entrance or opening, no doubt, was concealed by the mass of stones which was heaped over the chamber, and was only disclosed when the top had been demolished. Miss Campbell, of Kilravock, who was at the opening of it, states that they found two urns. One was smashed, but the other contained a quantity of burnt bones, and similar ashes were found about it, no doubt the contents of the broken urn. The urns were found exactly in the centre of the chamber, enclosed in a little bed of clay, whilst the remainder of the floor was strewn with gravel. The description of the vase is that of a rude cinerary urn. One could have wished that the contents of this interesting chambered cairn had been investigated by some competent scientific observer, but there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the details as noted by Miss Campbell at the time.

The next point of interest is the concentric circle of standing stones which goes round the base of the cairn. The stones of it are placed close together, and are very much of the same character as the ring foundation of the chamber. The ring itself is 53 feet in diameter.

We come now to the outer ring, which is also concentric. It is double the diameter of the intermediate ring, with two feet to spare. The exact measurement is 108 feet. The stones form a row of twelve pillars, or eleven and a vacant space. They stand apart from each other, nearly, but not quite, at regular intervals, llie height of these pillars varies from 6 to 12 feet, the tallest being on the south side, and their size gradually diminishing towards the north.

These are the main points in the structure and form of this Western Circle, and they are found almost exactly reproduced in the third or Eastern Circle, and the description of the one suffices for the other. There is no proper account of the opening of this third cairn. It took place some thirty or forty years ago, but it is said to have contained “ a few bones”—the mere mention of that circumstance affording a presumption that its contents were similar to those of the Western Circle.

The Middle Circle differs in some points from the other two. The chamber is larger, being 22 feet in diameter, but its interior is in so much disorder from the falling-in of loose stones that it is difficult to arrive at any certainty as to its structure—whether it was built similarly to or differently from the others. Mr Fraser, in his measurement of it, found that its separate rings were not true concentrics; it appeared to him that the builders had slightly lo6t the true centre in the course of the construction. The most remarkable feature is three causeways of small stones, 7 feet in width, which lead from pillars in the outer ring to the stones of the intermediate ring which goes round the base of the cairn. One of these points to E. 10 deg. S., another to S. 10 deg. E., and the third to W. 25 deg. N.

I have accepted Mr Fraser’s measurements, and purposely followed his description pretty closely, in order that there may be no question as to the facts themselves. Let us now see what these facts either prove or indicate.

In the first place, we have here evidence of burial by burning the bodies. Cremation in our day is urged upon sanitary grounds, but we know from history that it was practised in ancient times from religious beliefs—a rite, moreover, which was frequently confined to the higher classes as a special mark of honour. In the second place, we have clear evidence that the people who built these cairns were no rude barbarians. They had, it is apparent, some knowledge of the potter’s art, as is shown in the manufacture of the urn. They had acquired some little skill in masonry, and could design and execute a vaulted chamber and dome roof. We find also that the concentric circle is familiar to them. Further, we see that they were capable of taking accurate measurements—if not to mathematical exactitude, at least to remarkable precision. They knew something of the cardinal points of astronomy or of direction, as is shown by the similarity of the two built entrances and the position of the taller pillars in the outer row.

Now, let me ask, why is there the expenditure of all this skill, labour, and knowledge? Unquestionably, it points, I think, to its being all done in honour of the ashes enclosed in the heart of the cairn—to the remains enshrined in the urn—like something vei7 precious in a costly casket. Dr Joseph Anderson, from this point of view, aptly describes the rows of pillars as stone settings to the cairns. The evidence considered in detail, and the design of the structure viewed as a whole, lead irresistibly to the conclusion that we have embodied here the one great idea of reverence for, and exaltation of, the dead, passing, it may be, into its higher phase of ancestral worship. They are the tombs of “the mighty dead of a past age”—the burial-places, it may be, of their kings or chiefs. They have been raised in honour of a special class. That is one great fact regarding them of which there is good proof.

But whilst burial and a species of ancestral or hero-worship was the main purpose of these circles, that statement of their primary use does not exhaust their interest or significance. You will notice that they are circular in form. Now, we know that the circle or ring has, among many ancient peoples, been regarded as a sacred symbol—sometimes as an emblem of the Deity, a symbol of eternity, a sign of completeness and of unity, and a figure of the Sun, the great Ruler of Nature. We are familiar with the mystic ring of the magician and the charmed circle of the fairy spirits. The form of the circle or ring was an accepted talisman against evil, and a visible token of good. It as truly and distinctively marks the pre-Christian period in any country as the cross does the Christian era. It is no answer that the ring or circle was the common form of many ancient dwellings, for doubtless both originated under the same influence when the principle was a living power, though in after time it may have become a conventional form.

Here we have the whole structure pervaded by the ring principle—not one ring only, but a series of rings,, and one of these not a mechanical ring but an ideal ring, and all of them as nearly as may be concentric circles, that is, having a common centre. It is impossible to overlook this fact in the examination of these remains, and I think we may draw the inference from it that the circular form was intended to embody and express some definite idea, or to fulfil some special purpose. The intermediate ring of stones might doubtless have served to keep the stones of the cairn together, just as a row of stones placed around an earth mound keeps the soil from being scattered. But it is quite clear the outer row of pillars, standing some distance apart, could answer no such purpose.

The whole controversy, indeed, is practically narrowed to the question, “What mean these outer standing stones?” Dr Anderson’s description of them as the “stone-settings of the cairns” is very appropriate, as I have said, in one sense, but it does not cover the whole ground. Are they to be regarded as purely ornamental, like ordinary settings? Dr Anderson suggests that they may have served the further purpose of marking the boundary of the burial ground. But if that object had been all that was in view, the end could, it is perfectly obvious, have been accomplished much more easily and effectually by other and simpler means.

There is one feature which none of these theories explain. In these three circles and in every similar circle in the district the tallest pillars are placed to the south, the row diminishing in height towards the north, where they are smallest. They are put there clearly of design, and at the expenditure of much labour and care. And they never could have been placed at the different sites in such a position without some observation and knowledge of the sun’s course. Without the use of modern scientific instruments, which of course they had not, it must have been necessary for the men who set up these huge stones to have watched and noted the sun’s shadow most carefully ere they could have determined their position. It is quite true that these tall pillars do not always point due south in all the cairns scattered over the district. They often vary several degrees east or west from the true point, but the amount of variation is so trifling as compared to the extent of their accuracy, that, if for no other reason, it may be due to the comparative defect, of their observations and not to a want of intention, which certainly was to have these tall stones pointing in a southerly direction. This being the case, then, we have gained another fact—that, in placing these large stones to the south, the builders did so with some reference to the sun’s course.

Now, such a fact is too interesting and suggestive to be merely passed by, far less to be ignored, in the discussion of the significance of these remains. Let us try and make a fair use of it, and Bee if it be a key that will fit in the elucidation of the further question—Had any other of the stones of the ring a similar reference to the sun’s course in the way they were put up I Unfortunately, several of these pillars in each of the three circles are awanting, and we are not sure of some that they are standing in their original position; while, as regards others, they are plainly out of position in the ring. Still, if it can be shown in any one instance that they were set up on such a principle as indicated, we may safely conclude, from their similarity of feature, that the same idea dominated the whole group, either actively or conventionally.

But before entering upon the inquiry whether they had any solar reference, let me recall the fact that nearly all nations and tribes, removed in any degree from lowest barbarism, have all sought means of determining periods of time, of ascertaining the recurrence of seasons. With our mechanical clocks and watches, and our calendars and almanacs to keep us right, we experience no great difficulty as to time or season; but, when we think of it, it must have been no easy matter in bygone ages to have ascertained the time of day or the period of the year. Nevertheless, it must have been a pressing want to them, as it would be to us, especially in fixing the time for the observance of recurring festivals. Amongst Eastern nations generally the setting of the sun marked the beginning of a new day; and the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians, and some other nations of antiquity, divided the day into convenient periods, and time into certain seasons, by means of the sun-dial and other astronomical instruments. The Jews, we know, had an elaborate system of computation of time by the number seven and the recurrence of the new moons to regulate their religious festivals. The history of the Greek and Roman Calendar is an illustration of the immense difficulty of keeping the record of time. It is little more than a hundred years since this country adopted the Roman Calendar, as finally perfected on the New Style. But all our clocks, and calendars, and astronomical instruments are based on one great natural fact—the movement of the sun’s shadow on the earth (as we say, in popular language). It is the great timekeeper for all nations in all climes, civilised and barbaric alike.

Now, what we should expect amongst a comparatively uncultured people like the builders of these cairns is no elaborate system of computation or any very scientific means of observation, but some rude, rough, palpable, primitive method, if not of dividing the day, at least of reckoning the seasons of the year. Now, had they such? In examining the diagram of the Middle Cairn at Clava I was puzzled, as every one has been, by the mysterious three causeway projections. I had observed them frequently when visiting the ground. I believe they are not found, or not observed, anywhere except at Clava, and even there only connected with this particular cairn. Of course, if they led to any opening in the cairn, one would naturally conclude that they were simply pathways. But they lead to no entrance. The intermediate and inner circles have no openings, or appearance of openings, to correspond. It occurred to me that they might have been constructed with reference to the shadow of the stones from which they spring, and might have served to mark their position at some definite time—in fact, that we might have here a rude attempt to fix or stereotype the sun’s shadow on a particular day and hour for a particular purpose. I may remark that, whilst this Middle Cairn is not in such good preservation as the other two, it possesses this very great advantage—that more of the stones of its outer circle are in position than in the others, some six or seven out of the nine being apparently in their original positions.

In order to see if there was anything in this conjecture—for it was a mere conjecture, suggested by the hint given to us in the southerly position of the taller stones—I had the diagram examined by a friend accustomed to the practical use of the sundial and sextant in his daily occupation, and in whose accuracy I have the utmost confidence. Having examined the diagram, and worked out the calculations as to sunrise and sunset at Clava, he gives the following as the result:—

1. The Southern Causeway.—The stone at this point marks noon each day, subject ot course to ordinary equation of time. The true line strikes on the inner edge of the causeway, cutting the exact centre of the cairn, and the arc between the stone A and the causeway exactly measures the sun’s variation.

2. The point E (stone restored) is as near as may be to the first point of Aries—the point at which the sun departs from the £quator towards the North, and which we call the spring equinox.

3. The Eastern Causeway marks the sun’s entrance into Libra on 21st September.

4. A point midway between stones A and B would mark the south limit of the setting sun on December 21, the shortest day of the year, or winter solstice. There is no stone at this point, but, as the ring was evidently composed of ten or twelve stones, and only nine are shown, it may have been one of those removed. This is supported by the circumstance that stone D stands almost opposite the point where it would have been if so placed.

5. The stone standing between G and F gives the bearing oi the sun as it rises on 22nd September.

6. The Western Causeway gives the bearing of the sun as it sets on 21st April and 21st August. As these dates do not correspond to any change in the sun’s course, it is probable they may stand for some local division of the seasons, seed time or harvest. An observation taken on the ground with the sextant might thrm\ light on the point.

7. The causeways appear to have had the further purpose oi dividing the year into periods of four and eight months.

He adds—“I have no doubt whatever that this circle of standing stones served the purpose of a sun-dial or rude observatory.”

All who are acquainted with even the elements of astronomy will perceive at once the importance of these points. They are precisely the facts which could, by mere observation of the sun’s shadow alone, be observed and recorded, and it is, I think, beyond belief that these stones could have been set up in that order by mere accident, giving us, as they do, noon time, the solstices, and the equinoxes.

The question arises—Is there any proof of a sun-dial being constructed in any other part of the world on this principle 1 I have not been able to make any particular research into this point, but I unexpectedly came across an extract from a work on the antiquities of Peru, the ancient form of whose religion was sun-worship, which bears on the point. The writer is Marcoy, a French traveller, who is regarded as an authority on the antiquities of Peru. Speaking of the various observatories in the country, he says:—“These observatories were simply quadrangular pillars of unequal height, arranged in two groups of eight pillars, four of which were large and four small. They were united together by chains of gold. One of these monolithic groups was on the east of the city, the other on the west. The position of the sun in relation to the pillars indicated to astronomers the epoch of the solstices and equinoxes.” He goes on to tell us that “some of the palaces had dwarf pillars of this kind placed in the middle of their courts to serve as gnomons. The revolution of the earth round the sun and of the moon round the earth was known to these people.”

Markham, another writer on the subject of Peru, says that, in the Inca palaces and temples there was a sun-circle, but the only one he describes is a gnomon or cone, known as the sun-finger, at the palace of Pissac, and is not properly a sun-circle. You are no doubt familiar with the glowing description of the sun-worship of Peru given by Helps in his history of the “Spanish Conquest of America,” but I may quote a few sentences from his work in order to recall its peculiar features:—“Our northern natures can hardly comprehend how the sun and the moon and the stars were imaged in the heart of a Peruvian and dwelt there; how the changes in these luminaries were combined with all his feelings and his fortunes; how the dawn was hope to him; how the fierce mid-day brightness was power to him; how the declining sun was death to him; and how the new morning was a resurrection to him; nay more, how the sun and the moon and the stars were his personal friends as well as his deities; how he held communion with them, and thought that they regarded his every act and word; how, in his solitude, he fondly imagined that they sympathised with him; and how, with outstretched arms, he appealed to them against their own unkindness, or against the injustice of his fellow-man.” He tells us further that in Cuzco, the capital, stood a splendid temple to the sun, all the implements of which were gold. In the place or square of the temple, a great annual festival was held at the summer solstice. The great multitude, assembled from all parts of the empire, and presided over by the Inca, awaited, in breathless solemnity, the first rays of their deity to strike the golden image in the temple, when the whole prostrated themselves in adoration. There is, of course, little or no resemblance between the rude primitive stone circles at Clava and those dazzling golden temples of Cuzco and Pissac, with their gorgeous and awe-inspiring ritual, but the numerous common observatories, as described by Marcoy, do afford, I think, some points of similarity in design.

There is a well-authenticated case on record of a mariner becoming ii castaway on one of the islands of the South Pacific, who had lost his reckoning both as regards time and place, but who, in the course of his two years’ solitary residence, recovered the hour of the day and the day of the month, as well as his longitude and latitude, by means of observation of the sun’s shadow, and he accomplished this simply by constructing a sun-circle of posts driven into the ground. I mention this merely as an illustration of the utility of the form of the circle as a rude method of observing and recording solar time.

But to sum up. The conclusions which I have come to from an examination of the Clava circles are (1) that these cairns and circles were primarily intended for, and used as, sepulchres, and were raised in honour of men of rank; (2) that,, by their form, they were intended to express some religious idea, probably of homage to the sun ; (3) that the outer ring served the purpose of a sun-circle and calendar.

So much, then, for what I think the Clava circles tell us about themselves. The next question is, “Who built them?” They are evidently of great antiquity. There is no mark of hammer or chisel on the stones, and no particle of iron has been found connected with them. The bronze articles and the character of the pottery associated with similar structures over the country, and also the form of burial, have led Dr Anderson to the conclusion that they belong to the Bronze Age—that is, before iron came into use and after stone implements ceased to be exclusively used. Dr Anderson’s authority on such a question ought not to be lightly set aside. On such a point his judgment is all but decisive. At the same time, it is beginning to be generally acknowledged that the terms Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age are somewhat unsatisfactory divisions of time when social customs or religious ceremonies are concerned. Dr Arthur Mitchell's argument as to overlapping is unanswerable. We are constantly coming upon “ survivals ” of ancient times in modem civilisation. There is also the consideration that, in the matter of sepulchral observances, the most rigorous conservatism has generally prevailed—a conservatism extending not merely to the outward ceremonial, but embracing the minutest details; and, therefore, the introduction of a new metal even into common use in every-day life might not necessarily imply its adoption in connection with burials. What we may fairly claim, I think, is, that the time wThen these stone circles were set up should be regarded as an open question, on which fresh light may yet be cast.

I will not detain you by quoting the references to the history of races of antiquity who used similar stone circles as burial-places, nor of the examples of cairns and standing stones, as in the case of the history of the Israelites, being employed for various purposes—such as stones of witness, memorial and monumental stones, and pillars of heathen worship. They are interesting as side lights, but they do not materially help us to answer the question, Who put up these stones at Clava? The history of our own country is all but silent on the subject of these remains, and tradition, as far as I am aware, is almost blank. Custom in some parts of the country has preserved the practice of going round the church before entering it; and in our district, in several of the churchyards, it is usual for the funeral procession, wherever at all practicable, to describe a circle or circuit, following the course of the sun, in approaching the grave. For instance, in the old churchyard at Naim, a few months ago, the procession went by the west side of the church to the grave, which was close at hand and it was remarked that this was the first departure from an immemorial usage. I can remember several occasions making almost the complete circuit with funeral processions. The custom is undoubtedly a survival of some ancient burial ceremony, the significance of which has been lost, and it is just possible that it may have had its origin in connection with the ceremonial observed at interments within the cairns and circles. We can see the appropriateness of the practice in Connection with these circles. It is in harmony both with the spirit of the cult and the form of the structure, whereas we can decern no association with Christian ideas in burial, end no fitness as regards the ecclesiastical edifices. S:> far as this burial custom is of value as evidence, it would indicate that the age of these remains is not so remote as many suppose.

There is one other fact which should not be overlooked. It is admitted that these stone circles are most abundant in Pictland proper—that is, in the region lying between the Firth of Tay and the Moray Firth or Dornoch Firth. They become more and more numerous in the seaboard valley as you approach Inverness, and they culminate in the higher structure of the chambered cairns on the plain of Clava. Now, when the veil of obscurity is partially I lifted on the introduction of Christianity into Celtic Scotland, and I get our first glimpse of the actual social condition of the people in these northern regions, we find that this district was inhabited; exclusively by the Northern Picts. We see that the King had his residence in Inverness, and that the districts of Inverness and Kaim, where these stone circles most abound, were the headquarters of Pictland. The nobles and chiefs, the military leaders an 1 men of rank, would be near the Royal residence and Court. The details given us in the account of Saint Columba’s mission to King Brude, as well as all the other information we possess, show that the religion of the Pictish King and nation was Paganism, consisting of homage to the sun as supreme ruler of the universe, with some reference to the other heavenly bodies, whilst their familiar and potential deities were the personified powers of nature, taking the shape, for the most part, of evil spirits to be dreaded and conciliated. This system was upheld and administered by a class of priests who professed to be able to avert evil and bring good. One of these priests occupied an influential position at the Court of King Brude when Columba arrived. The incident which took place at the departure of Columba also shows that they laid claim to the exercise of supernatural powers. “I can make the winds unfavourable to thy voyage, and cause a great darkness to envelop thee in its shade,” said the chief druid. The Christian missionaries seem disposed to concede the claim, but attribute their power to the agency of evil spirits. Columba’s heart is often oppressed by the thick cloud of the evil spirits of Paganism, and there is a remarkable expression in the war-song with which, in his earlier days, he encouraged his kinsmen in the great battle of Coleraine with the Irish Picts. He asks—

O God, why wilt Thou not drive from us
This mist which envelops our number;
The host which has deprived us of our judgment,
The host which proceeds round the cairn.

The description “round the cairn” appears to have reference to a religious ceremony among the Irish Picts, for he goes on to say—

He is a son of storm who betrays us,
My Drui—he will not refuse us—
Is the Son of God, and truth with purity.

Gathering together all the references to the Drui or Pagan priests in Celtic Scotland when the Christian faith comes into contact and collision with the old system, they give us a picture of a class whom we would not be far wrong in describing as “wise men” or magicians. From what we know of these Magi, or wise men, among other nations, they gained their influence over the people partly by imposture, but also by a superior knowledge of the arts and sciences, and the laws of nature. As a rule, they always dabbled in astronomy, and, I ask, what more likely than that they may have been the actual designers of these circles, with their rings and pillars and pathways, marking the shadows as they move mysteriously from point to point, revealing to them secrets as to the sun’s course that were hid from the common people, and enabling them to fix the time for the observance of their religious festivals?

It has been pointed out that, as King Brude died a Christian, he would be buried with Christian and not with Pagan rites or in the tombs of his Pagan ancestors; and the guess has been hazarded that the remains of the little Christian Chapel, a short distance from the stone circles we have been considering, may mark the burying-ground where King Bmde’s body was interred. The name of the Chapel is St Dorothy’s, which would indicate a later Roman Catholic dedication, although not to the exclusion of the possibility of an early Columban origin as an ecclesiastical site.

As to this, however, no evidence is forthcoming. But this we know—that, when Christianity gained the ascendancy, it stopped cremation as a form of burial; it substituted the cross for the ring as a religious symbol; it directed the minds of the people from the sun to the Creator of the sun; it cast out the evil spirits, the demons, and introduced the good spirits, the angels. It delivered the people from the bondage of a crushing terrorism, and placed them under the reign of peace and goodwill toward men, and taught them that human life was not to be governed and regulated by peurile omens, and mystic signs, and magic spells, but was to be placed on the sure foundations of truth, love, kith, and hope. It is singular, indeed, that with so many of the old superstitions still retaining some hold on the popular imagination, hardly a trace is to be found of the meaning or use of these remarkable stone circles ; but we must remember that they were the tombs of the great and not of the people, and when they were disused, and the priests of the cult which they represented discarded, their purpose would, after a time, be forgotten.

There they are, however, studding the valley of the Naim, and appearing in the midst of many a cultivated field, reminding us of a bygone age, but having outlived their own history. So that, in answer to the question, Who set them up? We can only say, with hesitancy and doubt, they were probably built by the Northern Picts.

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