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Newgrange (Ruggles 1999, 12–19; Smyth 2009 figure 1.33) are directed towards the rising or setting Sun at one of the solstices. However, such structures are ...

Time and a Place A luni-solar “time-reckoner” from 8th millennium BC Scotland Vincent Gaffney1,10, Simon Fitch1, Eleanor Ramsey1, Ron Yorston1, Eugene Ch’ng1, 10, Eamonn Baldwin1, Richard Bates2, Christopher Gaffney3, Clive Ruggles4, Tom Sparrow3, Anneley McMillan5, Dave Cowley6, Shannon Fraser7, Charles Murray8, Hilary Murray8, Emma Hopla9 and Andy Howard1 1

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IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom. Email:[email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] 2 Department of Earth Sciences University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife,KY16 9AL, Scotland. Email: [email protected] 3 Archaeological Sciences University of Bradford, Bradford West Yorkshire BD7 1DP United Kingdom. Email: [email protected], [email protected] 4 School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom. Email: [email protected] 5 School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, United Kingdom. Email: [email protected] 6 Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh, EH8 9NX. Scotland. Email: [email protected] 7 The National Trust for Scotland/University of Aberdeen, The Stables, Castle Fraser, Sauchen, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire AB51 7LD. Scotland. Email: [email protected] 8 Murray Archaeological Services, Ltd, Hill of Belnagoak, Methlick, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, AB41 7JN. Scotland. Email: [email protected] 9 Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO17 1BJ United Kingdom. Email: [email protected] 10 Centre for Creative Content and Digital Innovation, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Abstract The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies, and the issue of when time was “created” by humankind is critical in understanding how society has developed. A pit alignment, recently excavated in Aberdeenshire (Scotland), provides an intriguing contribution to this debate. This structure, dated to the 8th millennium BC, has been reanalysed and appears to possess basic calendrical functions. The site may therefore provide the earliest evidence currently available for “time reckoning” as the pit group appears to mimic the phases of the Moon and is structured to track lunar months. It also aligns on the south east horizon and a prominent topographic point associated with sunrise on the midwinter solstice. In doing so the monument anticipates problems associated with simple lunar calendars by providing an annual astronomic correction in order to maintain the link between the passage of time indicated by the Moon, the asynchronous solar year, and the associated seasons. The evidence suggests that huntergatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and ability to track time across the year, and also perhaps within the month, and that this occurred at a period nearly five thousand years before the first formal calendars were created in Mesopotamia.

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Time and a Place A luni-solar “time-reckoner” from 8th millennium BC Scotland Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time's malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally it seems to go missing - until the eventual point where it really does go missing, never to return. Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending 2011, page 3 Time and Archaeology and Archaeological Time

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The capacity to conceptualise and measure time is amongst the most important achievements of human societies (Aveni 2000; Gosden 1994). In the past such knowledge allowed societies to anticipate natural events such as the beginning of rains vital for agricultural planning, to establish fixed points within the year for key ritual and social obligations, including the payment of debts and tax and, with writing, to record the order of important events and effectively to begin the construction of history itself. The significance of time is no less important to contemporary society and, for instance, ties together the increasingly vast networks of computers that control the global flow of capital as well as enabling the precise measurement of space through pervasive global positioning technologies now embedded within a host of electronic devices.

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Not surprisingly there is a considerable literature on the history of time, the nature of temporal measurement and the perception of time within different societies (Nilsson 1920; Gell 1982; Gosden 1994; Adam 1994; Rosen 2004). The objective precision of atomic clocks can be contrasted with the complexity of experiential time which may defy linear definition and essentially act as a social construct, allowing individuals and societies to make sense of their world through their experience of the past, and anticipation of future events (Gosden 1994, 2-12). Given the importance of time measurement to human society, and the variation of experience of time, our contemporary explanation of the nature and significance of historical temporal measurement may occasionally be contentious. Many societies demonstrate an appreciation of regularities within time, including recurrent natural phenomena such as astronomic cycles or seasonal weather patterns, but this need not constitute evidence for a formal temporal system with fixed units (Nilsson 1920; Ruggles and Cotte 2010; Iwaniszewski 2012). The work of Alexander Marshack (1964; 1972) may illustrate this point. Marshack suggested that engravings on Upper Palaeolithic mobile artefacts, such as the bone plate with markings from the Abri Blanchard from the Dordogne in France (dated to c. 30,000 BC), represented the waxing and waning Moon and may have functioned as a rudimentary calendar. If true this would have significant implications regarding the nature of abstract thought in early societies. Such an interpretation, however, has been debated and such objects, along with other early, engraved records may be better understood as tallies of events rather than formal calendars (Robinson 1992; Ruggles 2005, 57; d’Errico 1989; Pásztor 2011; Rappenglück 2010). Whilst there may be reason to discount some of the more dramatic claims for early development of calendrical devices, the extensive evidence for prehistoric structures that 2

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incorporate deliberate astronomical alignments has been a continuing and fruitful source for archaeological and ethnographic studies concerned with the development of temporal concepts (Maravelia 2003; Ruggles 2005). Although the extent of such phenomena has occasionally been questioned (Mackie 1977; Ruggles and Barclay 2000), there are wellknown examples of monuments with such characteristics and these include Stonehenge in the United Kingdom and Newgrange in Ireland. These sites are associated with astronomical alignments through the orientation of specific parts of each monument. The Avenue at Stonehenge (Darvill 1997; Ruggles 1997, 2006; Parker-Pearson 2012) and the passage at Newgrange (Ruggles 1999, 12–19; Smyth 2009 figure 1.33) are directed towards the rising or setting Sun at one of the solstices. However, such structures are probably not calendars as we understand the term (Ruggles 2014a), and the same may be true in those instances where natural features have been identified that, in the past, appeared to frame astronomical events from specific observer points (Higginbottom et al. 2003). In these situations, the relationship of a monument to an astronomical event may be more a reflection of a cosmological order than indicative of the existence of any temporal unit and, as Higginbottom et al. (2003, 48) state, the role of many monuments may have been “to bear witness to such events and not merely to record or register them”. Despite this, it is frequently asserted that the cycles of the Sun, Moon and stars were used in prehistory as calendrical tools, as is well known in many historically documented and indigenous societies. However, this can be extremely difficult to demonstrate convincingly, especially for stars, given that their seasonal changes (such as the annual appearance or disappearance or heliacal rising or setting) do not need to be viewed from a fixed spot, so are unlikely to have been marked in any way. The use of the Moon in the creation of basic calendars is, however, well documented at later dates (Ben Dov et al. 2012). Thus while the first evidence for formal lunar calendars is only found in Babylonia from the 3rd millennium BC (Block 2012), it is likely that lunar observations evolved at a very early period and that observation of lunar, as well as solar and stellar, events were accorded considerable significance in many societies.

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The Context of Warren Field, Crathes An intriguing addition to this debate relates to work carried out on a recently excavated pit alignment located near the Neolithic timber hall at Warren Field near Crathes in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (Murray et al. 2009 and figure 1). Originally discovered during aerial reconnaissance in 1976 as a differential cropmark, the Crathes timber hall is an impressive structure associated with the earliest farmers in Northern Britain and is dated to the first half of the 4th millennium BC. The subject of this paper, however, is a relatively modest pit alignment near the hall, also evident as a cropmark on the aerial photograph (figure 2). The pit group appears to have evolved over several hundred years to form a coherent arrangement of pits aligned from south west to north east (figures 2-5). The alignment is not, however, a linear or straight construction. Instead the structure is formed of three sections arcing north west to north east. There is a clear trend from smaller features at each end of the alignment with larger pits, several more than two metres in diameter, occurring in the central section. One of the larger pits, number 6, appears to be deliberately offset, slightly to the south of the overall curve. There are a total of 12 certain pits with three smaller, undated, postholes adjacent to the central, and largest, pit (number 5, see figure 3). A series of smaller features were also located in the excavation, in proximity to the pits. Where tested these were determined to be ephemeral, and were possibly due to natural leaching or indicating the position of ploughed out features. Other anomalies identified in the aerial photograph were targeted during 3

evaluation of the wider environment to the southeast. A line of at least five undated post-pits aligned north west to south east were present approximately 40m to the south east of the alignment; other potential features targeted were shown to be natural features or modern pits (Murray et al. 2009, 70).

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The primary features of the alignment are considerably older than the nearby timber hall and although there is evidence that the monument acquired its distinctive shape over a lengthy period, it is likely that all twelve pits had been cut, and the monument achieved its full form, by the early 8th millennium BC. This is a period when Scotland was settled by huntergatherers and is conventionally referred to as the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age (c. 10,0004,000 BC). Until recently it was assumed that Mesolithic societies within the United Kingdom were relatively simple, seasonally nomadic and that small scale communities associated with the period ranged across territories, hunting a range of animals and gathering foodstuffs when in season (Milner and Woodman 2005; Saville 2004).

Figure 1 Location map with principal sites mentioned in the text.

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Figure 2 The Warren Field pit alignment recorded as cropmarking on a rectified oblique aerial photograph. KC632re (1976, ©Crown Copyright RCAHMS 2013. This image is not covered by CC-BY 3.0 and permission will be required for any further use).

Figure 3 The excavated pit alignment at Warren Field. Features 9-12 were not excavated. Green indicates a later recut and greyed features are of uncertain character. Plan based on Murray et al. 2009, fig 3).

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Figure 4 Warren Field during excavation in 2005 and showing pits 20 to 5. Photograph by Moira Greig (©Aberdeenshire Council Archaeology Service Ref AAS-05-02-CT75).

Figure 5 Pits 5 and 6 during excavation. Post-pits 2 to 4 are in the foreground (© Charles Murray). 6

Hunter-gatherer society and monumentality Archaeologically, the remains of Mesolithic societies are often associated with isolated finds of stone tools, larger concentrations of lithic debris and, exceptionally, sites that preserve wooden and other organic remains. However, this picture has changed recently. A number of sites in Ireland, Scotland and England have produced evidence for a variety of built structures, some of which were substantial and may have been home to generations of huntergatherer families (Conneller et al. 2012; BBC 2012; Milner et al. 2013; Taylor et al. 2010; Waddington 2007; Woodman 1985). Within the area around Warren Field there are a significant number of large lithic scatters, and the availability of important seasonal resources, most notably fish runs, are likely to have played a key role in supporting what seems to have been a relatively substantial, and possibly semi-sedentary, population (Boyd and Kenworthy 1993; Murray et al. 2009, 27). There is also some potential evidence for the presence of structures of this date at the nearby site of Nethermills of Crathes.

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Current knowledge suggests that these early societies may well have been much more sophisticated than previously credited (Spikins 2008), but there remains, perhaps, a cautious attitude towards the interpretation of the material and social record for this period. Whilst it is accepted that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers certainly had rich and elaborate lifestyles (Conneller 2004), the evidence for built monuments, associated with symbolic meaning or astronomic alignment, is more frequently asserted for the succeeding Neolithic phase and sedentary farming societies. Beyond Britain, however, the recent discovery of a substantial built structure, possibly linked with burial, and dated to the 9th millennium BC at Gobekli Tepe in Turkey has begun to raise the possibilities that we should expect hunter-gatherer societies to create substantial monuments at an early period (Schmidt 2010).

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Although there are no known sites comparable to Gobekli Tepe in Britain there is increasing evidence for a tradition of substantial built structures dated to this period and the potential for such structures to possess a symbolic value rather than simply a pragmatic role has been argued (Waddington 2007). It is also true that individual pits of Mesolithic date are not uncommon (Sergant 2006; Mithen 2000; Wickham-Jones and Dalland 1998), although alignments that may be comparable to that found at Warren Field are extremely rare at the present time. The best-known example is a group of three pits found during the building of the visitor car park at Stonehenge (Cleal et al. 1995, 41-47). The Stonehenge examples are dated to the early 9th millennium and contained very large pine posts that have been interpreted as settings for totem poles within a special area. The possibility for these features to have some ritual purpose has been recognised and a recent paper has asserted that there is a link between the Stonehenge pits and the later Stonehenge Cursus, an enigmatic linear enclosure nearly three kilometres in length and dated to the mid 4th millennium BC (Loveday 2012), and that both monuments may have been associated with lunar alignments. The double pit alignment at Nosterfield Quarry, north of the Thornborough monument complex in North Yorkshire, may be another example of a rare pit alignment of this date (Dickson and Hopkinson 2011, 119-125). The Moon, early calendars and temporal measurement Loveday’s (2012) association of early monuments with the Moon is not such a surprise and the issues surrounding the use of the moon for temporal measurement are worth discussing further. The potential to use the lunar phase cycle to provide a simple, easily observable, means of tracking convenient periods of time (29 or 30 days) and closely associated with bodily rhythms such as the human menstrual cycle, was clearly appreciated by many past 7

societies. The Sun does not possess such characteristics. An understanding of the nature of such early calendrical systems, and how this information was used, can provide us with important insights into the conceptual frameworks of early societies (Nilsson 1920; Ben Dov et al. 2012, 1-8). A key characteristic of using lunar phase cycles for calendrical purposes arises because the length of the seasonal year is not a whole number of lunar phase cycles. This means that a lack of correspondence with the seasons will inevitably ensue if the Moon is used as the primary guide to the passing of time. Certain historical calendars, as well as some modern calendars including the Islamic system, retain an unmodified lunar cycle independent of the seasonal round.

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Luni-solar calendars use observations of seasonal events to correct the seasonal drift by indicating when, every two or three years, to insert or omit an intercalary month in order to guarantee continuing goodness of fit. These observations do not have to be astronomical but typically involve the heliacal rising or setting of particular stars (Nilsson 1920, chapter 4) or observations of the sun rising or setting at a given point on the horizon as seen from a fixed observing position. Other systems of measurement do exist and the Hopi, in contrast, have historically used detailed observations of the position of the Sun on the horizon to provide a highly effective calendrical system that guided agricultural and ritual activities (Walton 2012, figure 5). Such “solar horizon calendars” are truly tied to the seasons and do not reference the Moon, but are frequently associated with sedentary societies. Likewise, it is only in contexts where it was possible to consult records of meticulous observations spanning generations that one can imagine direct observations being replaced by an efficient arithmetic algorithm for adding intercalary months in a luni-solar calendar. Thus it was that centuries of lunar observation in Babylonia led to the recognition of the Metonic cycle by the 5th century BC. This provided an effective method for “time reckoning” and time keeping based upon the Moon and a known intercalation cycle that had an error of slightly more than a day in a century (Ruggles 2005, 230; Nilsson 1920, 355).

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The relative ubiquity of lunar calendars at an early period of human history has led to the presumption of the historical primacy of lunar systems within the development of calendrical systems, although Ruggles (2005, xxi) has cautioned against such simplistic views. It has also been recognised for some considerable time that an appreciation of the passing of time should not necessarily be equated with a calendrical system. However, Nilsson’s (1920, chapter 1) refinement of the term “time reckoning” to describe early temporal systems or observations, remains useful when considering the variation in ethnographically or archaeologically attested time systems. These may vary from “discontinuous systems” in which natural events may be recognised (sleeps, solstices or seasons) without any capacity to form a comprehensive or uninterrupted framework of time through to societies exhibiting “continuous time reckoning” in which there is no obvious gap in a sequence in which days form months and months form years in a system of near equivalence. Survey and landscape analysis at Warren Field The date of the Warren Field alignment, the arrangement of the pits and the larger archaeological context of the region are of considerable interest. There is evidence that Neolithic societies in north east Scotland had the capacity to create monuments associated with astronomical alignments and also that at least one later monument type found in the region, the recumbent stone circle, appears to have a consistent association with the position of the full Moon at midsummer (Ruggles 1999, 91-99; 2005, 361-364), even if they are no longer thought to have demarcated open spaces but rather to have been built to enclose cairns 8

(Welfare 2012; Ruggles 2014b). The idea that hunter-gather communities may have drawn on celestial symbolism in the creation of the monumental line of pits at Warren Field certainly encouraged an earlier study of the alignment’s use for astronomic purposes (Murray et al. 2009, 22; Smith and Higginbottom 2007)

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In reviewing the evidence the current authors noted the distinctive arc and the clear sequence of pit sizes, which peak at the centre and features 5 and 7. It was also noted that the depths of the excavated pits appeared to follow the trend of the surface area of the features in a deliberate manner. The excavated pits showed signs of periodic re-cutting over an extensive period of the Mesolithic and, indeed, data from six of the eight excavated pits indicated that the ultimate phases of the pits were during the Neolithic period, some four thousand years after the original construction of the monument and, tentatively, suggested activity associated with the nearby Neolithic timber hall. The fills of the pits were also of considerable interest as most of the larger features appeared to be associated with deposition of burnt material and some with exotic lithic material, presumably as a deliberate act. Pit 5 probably held a post or stake at some point in its development and pit 6 provided evidence for the burnt base of a stake.

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The unique nature of the monument, and the fact that four of the pits had not been excavated during the original excavation, suggested that a geophysical survey should be carried out to clarify and confirm the structure and nature of the unexcavated features associated with the pit alignment and to ascertain whether there were further features connected to the alignment or whether any related features could be identified within the surrounding area (figure 6). A survey was carried out over two days in February 2013 with teams from the Universities of Bradford, St Andrews and Birmingham. This included electromagnetic induction survey (1.5ha), ground penetrating radar (0.1ha), magnetometry (0.7ha), earth resistance (0.18ha) and electrical resistivity tomography survey (5 profiles). The results of the work were variable. The geology of the site provided the primary response to electromagnetic survey with only several broad features being identified through this extensive work. There were significant land management issues relating to the interpretation of the magnetometry data. The presence of a scatter of ferrous material to the east of the site and disturbance to the north and west of the site, probably resulting from cattle congregating near the field entrance, prevented identification of any other significant features in these areas. However, targets that could be associated with the excavated pits were identified within the remaining surveys and these were particularly clear within the ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity tomography surveys (figures 7-9). These detailed surveys essentially confirm the nature of the alignment and support the proposition of the excavators that some of the four unexcavated features may have been slightly larger than mapped. The 3D volume data, however, suggests that the mapped features still follow the general trends of feature size identified for the monument overall and there were no certain additions to the monument.

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Figure 6 Location of the pit alignment and geophysical survey grids (left). Electromagnetic induction survey in orange, magnetometry in red, earth resistance in blue and ground penetrating radar in green.

Figure 7 GPR results with pits corresponding to the excavated and unexcavated features mapped during excavation.

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Figure 8 Solid model of pit 9 located within the GPR survey. The results appear to confirm the suspicion of the excavators that the very dry conditions may have meant that some of the unexcavated pits were originally wider than planned. It should be noted that the depth of the solid model of pit 9 is exaggerated by the perspective of the image and the presence of a large anomaly, potentially a stone, in or near the pit.

Figure 9 Animation of Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) using the FlashRes64 instrument which is a multi-channel, free-configuration system. The data cube comprises five inverted sections 11

using an inter-probe separation of 0.5m. The location of the survey was based on an initial TwinProbe area survey which indicated the position of some of the pits. The ERT data are characterised by a relatively low resistivity topsoil layer followed by an extremely high value band about 1m thick. Below this band the values are more modest. Significantly, where the pits had been predicted by the Twin-Probe array the ERT suggests that the highly resistive layer has been cut by pits of significant size. These can be seen within the cube and the animated height field display.

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Structurally the alignment of the pits directed the next phase of research. The features peaked in size towards the centre and appear to frame pit 6, which is clearly offset between the two largest pits. This suggested to the team that any alignment was not likely to be along the length of the structure but perpendicular to the length and probably through pit 6. As views to the north were blocked by a gentle slope, the most obvious orientation of the monument was to the south east and towards the pass associated with the “Slug Road” framed on the southern horizon between the low hills of Cairn-Mon-Earn and Craigberg (figure 10). This was important as, at around 8000 BC, this small pass framed the rising of the midwinter Sun at the solstice. Visually, the larger pits also appeared to flank pit 6 in reflection of the topography of the southern horizon.

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These observations were investigated through a series of specially written software applications that permitted an interactive exploration of the relationship between the pits at Warren Field, the wider landscape and astronomical phenomena. The “Pitview” model used simple geometry to incorporate the locations of the pits as well as the location and viewing direction of an observer (figure 11). The backdrop to the view was the horizon, as calculated from Ordnance Survey terrain data. Beyond the horizon the application could display the paths of the Sun on any day of the year and the lunar limits. In performing these astronomical calculations full account was taken of the variation in the obliquity of the ecliptic which causes solar and lunar phenomena to change over time periods of thousands of years. For example, at the latitude of Warren Field the midwinter solstice sunrise is currently two degrees of azimuth further north than it was in the Mesolithic. The results of this work emphasised the previous observations of the relationship of the pits to the mid winter sunrise and the prominent cleft in the horizon associated with the Slug Road Pass.

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Figure 10 The plan of the Warren Field pit alignment below the symbolic arrangement of the pits in relation to the Slug Road pass. Green indicates a later recut and greyed features are of uncertain character. The backdrop has been exaggerated for display purposes (© Google Earth, Plan based on Murray et al. 2009, fig 3).

Figure 11 Animation of the “Pitview” application showing the position of the rising Sun in relation to local topography and viewed from the Warren Field pit alignment between December 8001 BC and 13

December 8000 BC. Grey lines indicate pits and the relative size of the features is indicated by a triangle on the lower section of the line. Black lines indicate other features.

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The alignment of the pits towards the midwinter Sun is therefore interesting but this cannot be seen as a comprehensive explanation of the monument or its structure. For example, the intriguing arcing configuration of the pits noted was clearly a deliberate feature of the alignment. Thus although archaeoastronomers studying Neolithic stone alignments in Scotland have tended to focus on the orientation along their length (see Ruggles 1999 chapters 6 and 7), it is difficult to plot an exact alignment across the long axis of the Warren Field pit group. In fact, the approximate orientation along its length suggests that there may be a visual link with the setting moon at its southern minor standstill limit and the rising moon at the northern minor standstill limit (Figures 12 and 13 and Appendix 1 below). This, however, may be a coincidental, geometrical effect resulting from aligning a structure roughly perpendicularly to the direction of midwinter sunrise. Furthermore, the minor standstill limits (as opposed to the major standstill limits) do not represent the extreme rising or setting points of the moon along the horizon, and it is difficult to conceive why and how people would have constructed precise alignments upon them even if they were aware of the 18.6-year lunar node cycle (González 2014).

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On the other hand, luni-solar calendars are ubiquitous in the ethnographic record (Nilsson 1920, chapters 5 and 6). In societies that were at least semi sedentary, a simple way to identify the need for a seasonal correction is by watching for the sun to rise or set behind a significant topographic feature as observed from a particular location. Could the pit group encapsulate or represent lunar observations in some way, with the solar alignment providing an annual recalibration? One possibility is that the pit alignment was developed over time to mirror the phases of the Moon, passing from one to the next along the alignment. Their relative sizes, and distinctive shape, are highly suggestive of the lunar phases, passing from waxing to gibbous and full and then back through the waning sequence. Visually, the monument does seem to discriminate between three sequences reflecting the Moon – waxing/gibbous-full/waning - and this may suggest use as part of a tripartite or decadal system in which the month is divided into roughly ten days (figure 10). Although bipartite divisions are more common historically, tripartite schemes are attested in the ethnographic record of time keeping (Webster 1916, 188). The slight lack of symmetry in the arrangement is interesting and it may be that there is some variation in the monument which reflects other factors or that the final decade is shorter than the others to represent the actual length of the lunar month (Nilsson 1920, 167-8). This is not to imply that the pits 'literally' encapsulate an observed sequence of moonrises. There are many reasons for dismissing this idea, not least that during most or all of the waxing phase moonrise occurs during daytime and could not be seen. Furthermore, a particular sequence of moonrises could only observed during a period of fine weather, and would not be repeated in the same positions at all often, owing to the complex interactions of the phase, seasonal, and node cycles (see Appendix I). The monument may represent a composite of observations related to the Moon and therefore a symbolic representation of how the observers saw the lunar cycle overall rather than a direct representation of any specific lunar month. However, one other consideration suggests that the structure, developed over a significant time, may eventually have possessed more than merely symbolic value and that it could have 14

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acquired basic calendrical functions through observation of the repeated cycles of the Moon. This is due to the fact that there are at least 12 pits, and there being 12 or 13 synodic months in a seasonal year. If the pits were used as a tally system, with a marker used to indicate the “current” month, then the 12 divisions within the structure could have acted as a basic “time reckoner” with each pit linked to a lunar month. Perhaps one pit, number 6, was set apart, or also used, for observation of sunrise on or around midwinter solstice so as to ensure a continuing seasonal fit via an annual solar recalibration of the sequence. If this is correct, the simplicity of the Warren Field structure is such that an observer would be able to track time throughout the year and, once a year, correct the sequence for seasonal shift. This suggestion remains hypothetical at this time, but it is interesting to note that two of the central pits at least, 5 and 6, had post or stake settings within them which may indicate markers for such a purpose.

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Figure 12 view along the pit alignment toward the south west and the lunar minor limit. The lunar minor limit is coloured in green and the path of the Sun is yellow. Grey lines indicate pits and the relative size of the features is indicated by a triangle on the lower section of the line. Black lines indicate other features. Insert top left indicates the viewing position in relation to the pit group

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Figure 13 view along the pit alignment toward the north east and the lunar minor limit. The lunar minor limit is coloured in green, the lunar major limit is red and the path of the Sun is yellow. Grey lines indicate pits and the relative size of the features is indicated by a triangle on the lower section of the line. Black lines indicate other features. Insert top left indicates the viewing position in relation to the pit group

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The comments made in relation to the practicality of viewing the lunar minor limits from Warren Field raises a number of issues concerning the contemporary environment. The fact that the alignments noted above could have existed does not prove that the Warren Field site was a viable “time reckoner” in the past. The original report noted that any significant woodland immediately adjacent to the site could have rendered the view lines associated with astronomic functions impractical (Lancaster 2009, 20). The nature and spatial distribution of early Holocene woodland and the interpretation of the environmental record in relation to opening up of the tree canopy, whether considered natural or anthropogenically modified, is currently a lively and topical debate amongst environmental archaeologists and ecologists. In many senses this has been stimulated by the work of Frank Vera (2000) and the detection of clearance, either natural through processes such as tree throw (Brown 1997) or anthropogenically created perhaps through the use of fire (Innes et al. 2010), is frequently debated. Traditional methodological approaches to these issues, as well as the resolution of such studies used to reconstruct vegetation histories, have been questioned more recently by a number of workers (Fyfe 2007; Smith et al. 2010). In the case of the Mesolithic postholes identified at Stonehenge, a possible comparator for some of the features and associated hypotheses developed at Warren Field, there was evidence for a clearing in the immediate vicinity of the postholes although Allen (1995, 48) notes that environmental evidence from pits, floral and faunal, is notoriously difficult to interpret. Smith et al. (2010, 226), working on contemporary environmental analogues, go further and suggest that the reconstruction of past vegetation (sensu Caseldine et al. 2008) requires the collection and analysis of multiple samples from the immediate site as well as off-site localities. At Warren Field the analysed pollen evidence from the site associated with the Mesolithic environments was relatively well preserved but restricted to five samples from a single context in pit 5 and the report acknowledges that the results may be constrained in 16

chronological terms when applied to such a long-lived monument (Lancaster 2009, 19-20). However, the samples suggest that the alignment was constructed within an open environment with birch/hazel that had an extensive, but not dense canopy. The data could not discount the existence of clearings and the presence of heath is indicated in the area with some small amounts of grass (Lancaster 2009, 16, 19). These non-woodland pollen types (Non Arboreal Pollen, NAP) are often used to assess openness within the pollen source area but relative to arboreal pollen types, NAP taxa are generally under-represented and therefore % NAP is an underestimate of the openness of the landscape within the source area (Hellman et al. 2009). We should also consider the advances in and evidence from computer simulation models, which are developing pollen-based reconstructions, particularly when considering actual abundance and landscape openness (Gaillard 2013).

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The environmental data are clearly important in this discussion and particularly whether the original environmental analyses, which are not at issue, actually falsify the interpretation presented here. In the case of Warren Field the resolution of the data is suggested to represent pollen production over a radius of c. 1-400 metres (Davies et al. 2007, 19) and the critical point in the argument relates to the view towards the midwinter solstice. Any observation at this time of year would have occurred when foliage was largely absent and view lines may well have been relatively clear (see figure 14). The effect of the Sun rising against the dawn sky through a relatively open, and perhaps partially cleared canopy, might well have been adequate for contemporary observers to see and record the event. Having said this there is no dispute that the site itself would still, effectively, have been surrounded by shrubby or open woodland. Whether we can discount any clearance on the basis of current evidence may be debateable but the relative openness of the wood may have rendered a clearance unnecessary in any case. The real point to be taken from this discussion is that the work at Warren Field suggests that further environmental study will be essential to take this aspect of the debate further.

Figure 14 Birch forest in winter (© Will Herman) This does, however, lead to the issue of why Warren Field was chosen as the site for such a monument? A second application (Passview) was written to identify areas that could provide clear views of the midwinter Solstice within the distinctive frame of the Slug Road pass (figure 15). From this it became clear that such areas were relatively limited and that Warren Field was situated in the largest contiguous area where an observation of the midwinter sunrise, through the Slug Road pass, might have taken place by chance. Sadly, this does not 17

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confirm that the alignment was sited here for that purpose. However, if a chance observation were to take place, perhaps in a natural clearing and almost certainly during winter when the foliage was less dense, then the general area of Warren Field was the most likely spot for such an event to occur. This situation may achieve further significance when it is appreciated that this point of the Dee is a focal point in the valley and, apart from the Slug Road pass, the area benefits from access east and west along the river and routes north through the highlands of the Mounth. The area would have been a natural focus for regional hunter-gatherer communities.

Figure 15 Areas in yellow provide clear views of the midwinter solstice within the frame of the Slug Road pass. Diamonds indicate the position of lithic scatters.

Comparator sites in north east Scotland and the nature of society The issues raised by the site at Warren Field are considerable. Although the interpretation presented above is attractive and conforms to the available evidence, and also to our present understanding of Mesolithic societies, the most immediate problem relates to whether the structure and its relationship to the topography is simply a coincidence. Ruggles suggests that such an issue is probably best confirmed or falsified though analysis of comparator sites (Ruggles 2010, 28). The original excavators had carried out an initial survey of the regional aerial photographic evidence and had identified a number of potential comparator sites (Murray et al. 2009, 24-25). This work was extended with the assistance of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland (RCAHMS). Pit alignments form a rather incoherent group and range between the remains of grubbed out hedgerows, 18

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later prehistoric boundaries and alignments of uncertain function (Cowley 2009, 222). There is, however, a monument group loosely described by Commission staff as “wandering splodges” and these were targeted for a provisional study. Some sites thrown up by the literature search, such as at Drumoak, were only superficially similar to Warren Field (Suddaby 2005), but two sites, at Balendoch and Arrat, were so alike that the RCAHMS’ aerial photographic rectifications for these alignments were incorporated into the project’s analytical software for study. It is clear that both possess characteristics that are extremely similar to the pit group at Warren Field although, of course, excavation or detailed remote sensing survey might well provide additional evidence that would falsify such an assertion. The primary alignment/view of these sites is to the south east and the far horizon, at Balendoch at least, provides a prominent topographic backdrop against which the midwinter rising Sun would be highlighted (figures 16 and 17). The generally lesser prominence of the horizon at Arrat, of course, need not reflect the importance of less prominent topographic features to past societies (figures 18 and 19). Not surprisingly the long alignments of these monuments are similar to that at Warren Field, although the caution expressed regarding the significance of such geometry applies here equally. Although further work on these pit groups is required these two sites, a relatively short distance from Warren Field (figure 1), begin to suggest that there could be a previously unidentified monument group in north eastern Scotland that possess similar physical characteristics, a link with the lunar cycle, and have alignments associated with the midwinter solstice.

Figure 16 The pit alignment at Balendoch recorded as cropmarking on a rectified oblique aerial photograph. PT14778re (1983 ©Crown Copyright RCAHMS 2013. This image is not covered by CCBY 3.0 and permission will be required for any further use).

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Figure 17 Midwinter solstice viewed from Balendoch. Grey lines indicate pits located from aerial photography.

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Figure 18 Aerial The pit alignment at Arrat recorded as cropmarking on a rectified oblique aerial photograph. E11616re (2001, ©Crown Copyright RCAHMS 2013. This image is not covered by CCBY 3.0 and permission will be required for any further use).

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Figure 19 Midwinter solstice viewed from Arrat. Grey lines indicate pits located from aerial photography.

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Conclusions Although the Warren Field pit alignment is not a visually striking monument in the manner of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey (Schmidt 2010, figure 3), the implications of the existence of this structure, and other comparators, are equally important given their potential use not simply for astronomic alignment, but as a continuous “time reckoning” device dating to the early 8th millennium BC (figure 20). Their presence suggests that pre-agricultural societies in north east Scotland, at least, clearly perceived the need to create a sense of time through the construction of monuments. They also possessed an understanding of the need to compensate for the seasonal drift associated with the annual succession of lunar synodic months. The reasons behind such a requirement may not have been simple. Given the hunter-gatherer context it is probable that scheduling of resources may have been an important consideration in the creation of the pit alignment and the adjacent river may well have been an important factor in this development (Warren 2005). The density of Mesolithic finds in the area suggests that this particular stretch of the Dee valley was an optimal area for hunter-gatherer settlement and at this period the seasonal availability of food resources must have underpinned the settlement pattern.

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Figure 20 Animation of virtual model showing the midwinter solstice viewed from the Warren Field pit group

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However, a direct economic interpretation of the data may be too prosaic as a full explanation of the Warren Field pit group. The seasonal availability of game may equally have been explained by the hunter-gatherers of the Dee valley to have been a consequence of the passage of time itself and this may have been linked intimately to the arcane control of the Moon and the Sun through built monuments such as that at Warren Field. Who watched the skies, observed the passing of time and the movement of any planetary deities we cannot yet tell, although evidence for individuals with special status has been recovered at Mesolithic sites in Europe (Porr and Alt 2006). Certainly, the contents of the pits hint strongly at repeated ceremonies involving fire and the deposition of unusual materials within the features (Murray et al. 2009, 14), whilst the longevity of the monument also suggests that special knowledge associated with the pit arrangement appears to have been curated and maintained over a significant time. The recutting of the pits four thousand years later need not indicate that the monument was used or understood in the same way throughout the Mesolithic or at a later date by Neolithic farmers, but the evidence is highly suggestive that the structure retained some level of sanctity whilst the importance of the Moon was recognised regionally through the construction of later recumbent stone circles. The Warren Field site, best described, as the original authors emphasised, as a Mesolithic monument rather than a simple pit alignment (Murray et al. 2009, 20-29), currently represents a point near the beginning of conceptual time in this part of Scotland at least. Indeed, on the available evidence the site represents the earliest example of a built structure which appeared to have functioned not as a simple link to observed astronomic events, but as a calendrical tool that guided action within the present and also anticipated time to come. In this sense Warren Field illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the National Trust for Scotland and Mr Gareth Clingan at the Crathes Castle Estate for their generous support in carrying out this work. Bruce Mann at Aberdeenshire Council assisted greatly in providing access to aerial photographs of Warren Field and we would also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Royal Commission on the 22

Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland for their assistance in carrying out a preliminary aerial photographic survey of pit groups in the region. Will Herman took the excellent picture of a birch forest in winter. Professor Richard Bradley and Professor Kevin Edwards helped greatly by commenting on the ideas and text provided here. The authors also extend their thanks to the independent reviewers from Internet Archaeology for their advice and guidance on the text.The survey teams from Birmingham, Bradford and St Andrews are part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project carried out in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Society for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (http://archpro.lbg.ac.at/) and the EPSRC GG-TOP project (https://connect.innovateuk.org/web/gg-top-research-project1). Finally, specific thanks are extended to Laura Bates for hosting the entire geophysics team over a weekend. It must have felt like drawing a short straw but we enjoyed the stay immensely - we hope to return very soon!

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APPENDIX I

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Observing sequences of moonrises along the horizon — a footnote by Clive Ruggles

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Given an observer viewing moonrise on successive nights, and supposing a sequence of clear nights, then the moon rises a little under an hour later each night, and during the waxing part of the phase cycle is not seen to rise as this happens during the day. The first time moonrise can be seen is around the time of full moon, at around the time of sunset, and then successive moonrises are seen later in the night until the last crescent, which rises just before the sun. Thus moonrises can be monitored in the run-up to full moon and the start of a new month.

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The position of this sequence of moonrises along the horizon depends mainly upon the time of year but there is also an effect due to the timing within the 18.6-year node cycle. What is seen at sunrise and sunset is also affected by the time of year because of the varying length of night. Around June solstice, the full moon will be seen to rise close to its most southerly position (around the December solstice sunrise position), with successive moonrises appearing progressively further northwards until the last crescent is seen close to the northernmost limit (June sunrise position). Around December solstice, the opposite is the case. The full moon will be seen to rise close to its most northerly position (around the June solstice sunrise position), with successive moonrises appearing progressively further northwards until the last crescent is seen close to the southernmost limit (December sunrise position). At intermediate times, the full moon will first appear at a position somewhere between the northerly and southerly limits. In particular, close to the equinoxes the full moon with appear approximately due east. Around the autumn equinox successive moons will appear progressively further north until around the time of last quarter, whereupon they will start southwards again. Around the spring equinox successive moons will appear progressively further south until around the time of last quarter, whereupon they will start northwards again. 23

It must also be borne in mind that in any given year, the closest full moon to a given time of year, such as a solstice or equinox, may actually be up to two weeks either side of it. Bibliography Adam B (1994) Perceptions of time, in Ingold T (ed) Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Routledge, London and New York, 503–26 Allen M J (1995) Before Stonehenge. In Cleal RMJ, Walker KE and Montague R. Stonehenge in its landscape: Twentieth Century Excavations. English Heritage Archaeological Report 10. 41-63

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Meta data for animations Figure 9

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Name and version of video codec, video dimension (in pixels), frame rate (fps) and bit rate. H264, 1272x948 pixels, 25 fps, 512 kbps Name and version of audio codec - sample frequency, bit-rate & channel information. N/A: no audio Length (hours, minutes, seconds) of file and size. 30 seconds, 2663000 bytes Copyright clearances where required (e.g. oral history). N/A Caption and short description for each movie file. Animation of Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) using the FlashRes64 instrument which is a multi-channel, free-configuration system. The data cube comprises five inverted sections using an inter-probe separation of 0.5m. The location of the survey was based on an initial Twin-Probe area survey which indicated the position of some of the pits. The ERT data are characterised by a relatively low resistivity topsoil layer followed by an extremely high value band about 1m thick. Below this band the values are more modest. Significantly, where the pits had been predicted by the Twin-Probe array the ERT suggests that the highly resistive layer has been cut by pits of significant size. These can be seen within the cube and the animated height field display

Figure 11

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Name and version of video codec, video dimension (in pixels), frame rate (fps) and bit rate. H264, 800x450 pixels, 15 fps, 255 kbps Name and version of audio codec - sample frequency, bit-rate & channel information. N/A: no audio Length (hours, minutes, seconds) of file and size. 59 seconds, 1921523 bytes Copyright clearances where required (e.g. oral history). N/A

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Caption and short description for each movie file. Animation of the "Pitview" application showing the position of the rising Sun in relation to local topography and viewed from the Warren Field pit alignment between December 8001 and December 8000 BC. Grey lines indicate pits and the relative size of the features is indicated by a triangle on the lower section of the line. Black lines indicate other features.

Figure 20 Name and version of video codec, video dimension (in pixels), frame rate (fps) and bit rate. mp4, 30 fps, 1280x720 resolution, 4106 kbps Name and version of audio codec - sample frequency, bit-rate & channel information. No audio Length (hours, minutes, seconds) of file and size. 1:36 min:sec, 46.4MB Copyright clearances where required (e.g. oral history). None. Caption and short description for each movie file.

Animation of virtual model showing the midwinter solstice viewed from the Warren Field pit group Simulation showing the virtual reconstruction of the Warren Field Pit alignment during the midwinter solstice.

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