Someone has scrawled “AA 2015” on one of the stones of Britain’s third largest stone circle, Orkney’s Ring of Brogdar.

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A spokesman for Historic Scotland said “Fortunately incidents such as this are rare, and we continue to work with the local community to educate people on the significance of these prehistoric sites.” All very well, but it’s a fair bet it was a visitor not a local and the locals probably need no educating on the subject. In any case, Historic Scotland and it’s predecessor bodies have been “educating” the public since 1885 and it doesn’t seem to have got through to the likes of Andy Alexander or whatever the little toe-rag’s name is.  So you have to wonder if more could be done beyond vague promises to educate people – certainly at the “Hollywood” sites where the sheer numbers of visitors increases the statistical likelihood of attacks. (The Nine Ladies stone circle has recently suffered similar vandalism).

“Punishment” is a form of education that shouldn’t be neglected. In Britain if you’re caught you can theoretically get up to 5 years in jail but of course no-one ever gets much more than a fine. Even bulldozing a circle at Priddy resulted in a non-custodial sentence. Abroad, though, if people are caught damaging particularly precious monuments the penalties can be much more severe. Last year a Russian who carved a letter K on the Colosseum in Rome (which is less than half the age of the Ring of Brogdar) was fined £15,800 and a couple of years ago a man was jailed for 18 months for urinating against the Alamo (a monument that’s one twentieth of the age of the Ring of Brogdar!)