Prehistoric lightning strikes on exposed sites near Loch Roag could have been the inspiration for the building of the Callanish stone circle, according to a new archaeological survey of the area.

A report in yesterday’s (Saturday December 21st) Observer newspaper has put forward the new theory from a group of researchers at the Universities of St Andrews, Bradford and Wales at Lampeter.

Their paper, published on December 11th in the online journal Remote Sensing, suggests that the single standing stone still present at ‘Callanish XI’, 2.8km from the main Callanish stone circle, could mark the spot of one or more massive lightning strikes, which inspired ancient man with the awe which led to their building.

The Observer’s report, by journalist Dalya Alberge, says: “A geophysical survey around one of the stones has astonished archaeologists by revealing a star-shaped pattern formed by one, or possibly multiple, earth-shaking lightning strikes. New technology has exposed a clear pattern covering an area of up to 20 metres in diameter, buried until now beneath peat bogs.”

The researchers used multiple diagnostic techniques in the landscape surrounding the stones, and established that the single stone at Callanish XI was once surrounded by a circle of smaller stones.

It’s also the only location from which all the other Callanish monuments can be seen and may predate the large circle which is now the focus of most visitor attention.

One of the paper’s five authors, archaeological geophysicist Dr Chris Gaffney said that the fossilised lightning strike was invisible from the surface, but that the magnetic evidence indicated a ‘huge’ event.
He said: “The prospect of understanding why a particular stone circle might be in a particular location is amazing. We’re always trying to get into other people’s heads when we’re thinking of these ancient ritual sites. Well, we might now have an idea.”

Pictures show the geophysical image of the lightning event with red marks showing where stones were previously located (lead author Dr Richard Bates) and an image of Callanish at full moon (Callanish Stones & Visitor Centre).