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Survey of An Unrecorded Stone Setting Near Broubster
L J Myatt

Situated at grid reference NDO45599, which is approximately 800m ENE of Broubster village and 100 m WSW of the ruined croft of Aultan is a standing stone. Reference is made to this stone and other slabs set on edge in the immediate vicinity in paragraph 402 of the Inventory of Monuments (1), but doubt is expressed as to whether they form a prehistoric setting of stones.

The site lies on fairly level ground, open in an arc from the NW round to the NE, and surrounded by slightly rising ground elsewhere. In the area are other settings of stones. Approximately 350m away, and visible from the site, to the NE are two isolated stones 120m apart at NDO 48601 and NDO 48602, whilst 950m to the NNW, and out of sight, is a horse-shoe setting of large stones at ND048609.

With. the permission of the land owner, Mr. Murray Threipland, an accurate survey of the site was carried out by Mr. R. Gunn using theodolite and tape. The orientation was determined by two time/azimuth observations of the sun in the manner described by Thom (2).

A total of 8 stones firmly set in the ground were located and in addition a further 2 fallen stones which appeared to belong to the setting. These are shown in the accompanying plan where d and g represent the fallen stones. Unfortunately, the ground to the NE of the setting, adjacent to the ruined croft of Aultan, had been under cultivation at some time and any standing stones in this area may have been removed. The two cairns shown in this area on the plan are probably clearance cairns of stones collected from the cultivated ground.

The stones in the setting vary considerably in shape and size from flat slabs 1.0m high to small rounded stones with a height of only 0.13m protruding above the surface of the peat covered ground.

Them (3) has shown evidence for a standard unit of length, the megalithic yard used in the construction of various stone settings. This is equal to a distance of 0.829m. Stones c to j in the setting at Broubster undoubtedly lie on a circular arc. A radius of 39 MY would appear to fit this circle. Stones a and b do not lie on this arc and their positions would suggest that the true shape of the setting is a circle flattened in its northern extremity. Unfortunately the lack of stones in this region due to cultivation does not permit an assessment of its exact shape to be made. There is, nevertheless, little doubt that from the evidence of the survey these stones do form part of a prehistoric setting.

References:
(1) Third Report And Inventory of Monuments And Constructions in the County of Caithness H.M.S.O. - 1911.
(2) A. Thom Megalithic Lunar Observatories -- 0.U.P. - 1971.
(3) A. Thom Megalithic Sites in Britain - 0.U.P. - 1967.

Published October 1973