Sea Views

Glengorm WP1060795

Two obvious sea triangles at Glengorm on the Isle of Mull.

Fieldwork at Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire identified a very particular visual relationship between the stone alignment and views to the sea.  An article describing, exploring and presenting the results was published in the Heritage Journal in August 2014. Subsequent work has confirmed that the Bancbryn observations are far from unique and indeed work on Dartmoor, Wales, Argyll and the Isles, Northern Scotland, and the Western Isles of Scotland has confirmed that many stone alignments have measurable, special and noteworthy visual relationships with the sea. In many instances the character of the sea view alters drastically as one moves along the row and the rows appear to have been sited to maximise this impact. This phenomenon has been described as “tricks and treats” to emphasise the careful way (trick of the trade) in which the alignment builders placed their rows within the landscape to maximise particular visual treats. Given the regularity of these visual treats it is difficult not to conclude that the rows were carefully placed to acknowledge these special views. The emphasis on restricted horizon views is the most obvious when the sea forms the focus of the treat, however it is clear that other distant horizon features were also used and on occasions artificial features such as cairns, stone alignments and stone circles were included in the repertoire. A strong case to support the idea that a significant proportion of stone alignments were carefully positioned within the landscape to provide a variety of particular and probably special views to surrounding and often very distant features is evolving. This web resource will examine the abundant evidence that exists to support this hypothesis. The sea views are only one of the visual treats offered by stone alignments and indeed they are among the easiest to examine.  Relationships with other features are often more difficult to define and therefore quantify. There is a considerable body of evidence to demonstrate that particular visual relationships were important to Neolithic and Bronze Age people and it is therefore hardly surprising that the alignments should share this characteristic. Analysis of the viewshed data is time consuming and therefore it will take some time to complete, but the results will be added to this web resource as and when they become available.  If there are any particular alignments which you believe would benefit from this type of work as a matter of priority please get in touch and it may be possible to prioritise them.

Initial analysis mainly using Google Earth has indicated that 186 (56%) of the stone alignments have views of the sea.  The distribution of these rows is shown in the map below. Many of these alignments have relatively restricted views towards the sea suggesting that it was a glimpse that was important.  The term sea triangle has been developed to describe the type of restricted sea view where hills on either side form two sides of a triangle with the third being formed by the horizon beyond the sea. Of particular interest is the observation that in several instances where alignments stand close together only some of the rows have views of the sea whilst their neighbours appear to have been deliberately positioned to hide them from the sea. Whilst none of this will provide the crucial information on precisely how the alignments were used it is clear that the activities involved the landscape in which they lived.

Map showing the distribution of stone alignments with sea views

Map showing the distribution of stone alignments with sea views


Sea View Articles

Currently available Sea View articles include:

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