by Dr Sandy Gerrard

The Stones of Stenness today

The Stones of Stenness today

 

Today the glossy guide books that you can purchase at the “honey-pot” heritage attractions contain loads of perfect photographs accompanied by a few paragraphs explaining what there is to see and what it might mean. Such publications don’t tout controversy and are very much a product of establishment thinking. This was not always the case and in the “olden” days back in the 1950’s the authors of the so called “Official Guides” produced by the Department of the Environment sometimes used them as a vehicle to vent their spleen.

A wonderful example of this can be found in the “Ancient Monuments in Orkney” Official Guide published in 1952. The description of the Stones of Stenness stone circle on page 21 is remarkable and speaks for itself. “It consists of four erect monoliths together with a spurious dolmen-like structure which dates only from 1906 and is the result of an unfortunate ‘restoration’ of fallen stones by the then Office of Works, misled by certain archaeological ‘experts’ of that time.”

Fairly hard hitting stuff and not the sort of thing you are likely to read in today’s sanitised publications for the general public. Just goes to show that government experts don’t always get it right.

A photograph of the “spurious dolmen” is available here and further information on this particular debacle can found at Orkneyjar.