On Saturday May 14th 2016 Dunfermline YAC visited the prehistoric sites of Glenrothes. These are:
- Balbirnie Stone Circle (Canmore entry);
- Balfarg Henge (Canmore Entry)
- Balfarg Riding School Site (Canmore Entry)
All of these sites have been excavated and seriously messed about with. The stone circle, excavated in the 1970’s was moved to it’s present site away from the widened A92. Though it’s appearance today is quite different to any time in its past, it is well worth a visit. We spent a long time making field notes, drawing and measurements, eating lunch, and climbing. After lunch we also had a go at planning with plane table and alidade, which actually went pretty well. There will be more of that once the summer dig in the Abbey Graveyard gets underway.
Balbirnie Stone Circle
Below are photographs taken before and during the excavation of the site. You can see the stone cairn built within the stone circle and one of the Bronze Age cists, complete with pot (a food vessel).
You can get some idea of how the site is presented today at it’s new location. The cairn is gone, the cists have been left open without their capstones and there is no indication of where the stones now missing from the circle were once placed.
I finally remembered to move us on to the Henge at Balfarg, more-or-less just round the corner from Balbirnie. The henge was discovered from aerial photographs after World War II, though obviously the standing stone had been noticed previously! When the henge was excavated in advance of building work on the houses now on the site it was decided to make a feature of it by restoring it and building the road to follow the circle. Wooden posts were put up to show where other stones had once stood to make a circle, though the excavation had discovered that there had also been a wooden circle at one time.
Here you can see the site before excavation and after restoration, but before the housing estate had been built.
The henge sits rather at odds within it’s current suburban setting, somewhere to exercise a dog rather than deposit human remains!
Balfarg Riding School
The final site we visited, one short, but confused walk from the henge later, is called the Balfarg Riding School site. This is because no one knows what the site actually was and so we can’t give it a proper name. At the time it was excavated it had been on a riding school and the name has just stuck.
It’s pretty weird. There is what looks like part of the ditch of a tiny henge that enclosed some kind of structure all of which we can now see is where wooden posts once stood. It has been interpreted as a possible excarnation platform: a place where human bodies were left to rot and be picked over by scavenging birds, but protected from large animals by a tall fence. Finds of bits of people on the site reinforce this interpretation, but as you can see below, there are other ideas.
Personally I think the site must have been some kind of sports arena, perhaps for an early form of volleyball. What do you think?