Professor Vincent Gaffney, of the School Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “The dramatic results of survey on Lewis demonstrate that we have to understand the landscapes that surrounds these ritual monuments and the role that nature and natural events, including lightning, played in creating the rituals and beliefs of people many thousands of years ago.”

Evidence of the strike at the centre of the stone circle was found during a geophysics survey
Evidence of the strike at the centre of the stone circle was found during a geophysics survey © University of St Andrews

Bates, C. R.; Bates, Martin; Gaffney, Chris; Gaffney, Vincent; Raub, Timothy D. 2019. "Geophysical Investigation of the Neolithic Calanais Landscape." Remote Sens. 11, no. 24: 2975.

DOI: 10.3390/rs11242975

The northern and western isles of Scotland have proved fertile ground for archaeological investigation over the last 100 years. However, the nature of the landscape with its rugged coastlines and irregular topography, together with rapid peat growth rates, make for challenging surveying. Commonly, an archaeological monument or series of monuments is identified but little is known about the surrounding areas and, in particular, the palaeo-landscapes within which the monuments are located. This situation is exemplified by the standing stones of Calanais in Lewis. Here, surrounding peat bogs have buried a significant portion of the landscape around which the stones were first erected. This project identifies remote sensing geophysical techniques that are effective in mapping the buried (lost) landscape and thus aid better contextualisation of the stone monuments within it. Further, the project demonstrates the most appropriate techniques for prospecting across these buried landscapes for as yet unidentified stone features associated with the lives of the people who constructed the monuments. 

Keywords: geophysicsneolithiccalanaisstone circle