The Stones of Stenness – Orkney, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

The Stones of Stenness

Possibly the oldest of Britain's ancient henges is also one of its most stark. 


The United Kingdom is awash in rings and rows of standing stones placed by ancient peoples for rite, rituals, and funerary purposes. With their astounding age, finding the actual oldest one is no small task, but the Standing Stones of Stenness are as likely a specimen as any. They’re quite lovely as well.

Rising up out of a grassy field in Orkney, Scotland, the Stenness stones are located in the vicinity of other henges which seem to lend the Stenness site particular importance just by their proximity. The original stone monument consisted of 12 upright stones positioned in a circle, all surrounded by a shallow ditch. However, most of the stones have fallen over the years and the ditch has been filled leaving just four standing stones, the tallest of which reaches up almost 17 feet high. While the henge is not as numerous as it once was, the spare stones that remain are almost made more picturesque for their scarcity.

In the middle of the ring are the remains of an ancient hearth that had a path leading up to it. It is thought that the Stenness stones were used in some kind of rituals involving the ancestry of builders. Despite the speculation, no one today is positive of the purpose of the stones, but they are now mostly used for tourist pictures. 

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