• Ellen E. Sutherland

Old as dirt. (Well, maybe not quite...)


Excerpt from “Destiny of the Departed,” a Jamie Poole novel, publication forthcoming:

Granny D said, “If you want to use the henge to travel in time, all you need to know is where the sun is going to rise. There are many henges in the world, and they all function much the same.”

“You mean there are more than Stonehenge and America’s Stonehenge?” This from Lenore. Bruce and I knew better.

I said, “There’s the one on the Isle of Osiris. It’s smaller than Stonehenge, but has the same concept with a small stone altar in the center.”

“Fascinating. I would love to see it one day. Jamie, do you think you could take me?”

“I’m sorry, Granny D. It’s really a hard place to get to. And it’s not set up for tours.”

“Rats. An old lady can dream. Anyway, henges tend to be in the northern hemisphere between 51 and 59 degrees latitude. There’s Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, Newgrange, in Ireland, the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, and Callanish in the Hebrides to list a few. Jamie, what is the latitude of the Isle of Osiris? Any idea?”

I rattled it off like it was my home address: “59°50'6.96"N latitude and 7°13'30.88"W longitude. It’s due east of the Shetland Islands—or it was. Osiris is still there, but the other islands are nothing but little bumps.”

“Hm, right in line with others. Did Eliyana’s people build the henge?”

“No, it was there before them. They have no idea who built it.”

# # #

“Henges tend to be in the northern hemisphere…” Granny D stated. While this is true, it’s not always the case. Recently hundreds of earthworks were found in the Amazon rainforest. Check out this article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/02/06/hundreds-ancient-earthworks-resembling-stonehenge-found-amazon/

This is still a developing story of earthworks throughout the world. To say that Stonehenge is the only one is a gross misstep. While it is not the oldest, it is older than many may think. It is the most famous. That might be unfair. There are so many other places of equal value that need to be explored and documented. (This and future blogs intend to discover some of those other places.)

Sometimes what is in your own backyard is not as fascinating as what lies a world away. Perhaps we should spend more time in our own backyard. When I was younger, I lived near Indian mounds in Anderson, Indiana. Sound familiar? If you’ve read Jamie’s first book, she speaks about them. I’ll cover them and some other American sites later.

There are others equally fascinating. Each has its own story to tell. Each has clues to who we are as people, what this world was like thousands of years ago. They are time capsules. They reveal that we as people were sophisticated thousands of years ago. These places were centers of worship. They were also centers of agriculture, trade, and domestic life. Everything fit together for ancient man.

A henge, or a stone circle is a monument of stones arranged in a circle or ellipse. These monuments exist all over the world. They served many different functions. One function was to mark days like a giant sundial. Stones were arranged in specific ways so that the sun would strike a stone and mark key dates. For the Celts, these included four quarter days: Samhain, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Imbolc.

Designers of these henges had to understand mathematics in order to accurately place each stone. Many of these henges span many acres of land. This is no small feat and one archaeologists still ponder as they study these places.

The Ring of Brodgar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mentioned in “The Destiny of the Departed” and is located on the largest island in Orkney, Scotland. The Isle of Osiris (which is fictional but semi-based on Orkney), in the Jamie Poole series, the Orkney Islands are a chain of islands north of Scotland. The main standing stones were erected between 2500 and 2000 BC, making this site older than Stonehenge.

Until recently, it was thought this was a small site and has often been overlooked. However, recent discoveries that are ongoing reveal much more than originally believed. The area became a World Heritage site in 1999. Along with the Ring of Brodgar, the site includes several other sites: Maeshowe, Skara Brae, the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Excavations have revealed buildings used for rituals and domestic life. There is evidence of Scandinavian visitors. The Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness were allegedly known as the Temple of the Sun and Moon. Young people made their vows and prayed to Wōden at these "temples" and at the so-called "Odin Stone" that lay between the stone circles until it was destroyed by a farmer in 1814. Had this site been newer, we might call these people Vikings, but Ring of Brodgar is older than Vikings who didn’t appear for several thousand years.

Places like this inspire writers, myself included, to write about these mysterious and historically critical places. As a result of modern authors like Diana Gabaldon and myself and many others, tourism to places like the Orkney Islands has increased. Tourism is good. It ensures these places can stay around to be studied, respected, and learned from. Our future is found in our past.

While these books are works of fiction, many of the authors have worked relentlessly to ensure facts presented in their fiction are accurate. And why not? The best stories are those you can find in your backyard.

Have a listen. Can you hear them? Whispers on the wind? Stories your grandmother’s grandmother is trying to tell you. Give pause. The story is worth telling.

#Orkney #archaeology #DianaGabaldon

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Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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