If you visited Tiree, you probably heard about the Ringing Stone , a huge glacial unique feature left near the shoreline after the Ice age about 10,000 years ago. It has cupmark indentations on it, and rings when you hit it. Leaving aside the lore and legend, i was fascinated by the cupmarks. (I wanted to be an archaeologist when i left school!) Why were they there? Who did them? Many archaeologists and geologists agree they were probably done around 100BC as perhaps a game, or tribute to loved ones or people. I thought differently.
In 2003 (when i last visited the stone), i took some photographs of each side and my personal project started. Since then, i’ve been reading about the Stone and putting my OWN theory into place, collecting notes and building up a new theory. At the time when i visited it, i immediately recognised the Northern star constellation URSA MAJOR (big dipper) on one side of the stone with each cupmark representing a star. I made a mental note back then to investigate further. As far as i could see, nobody has ever made the correlation between the stone markings and stars, so I kept an interesting journal (notebook) noting anything relevent and I plan on producing a little theory paper on the stone in future.
I believe in the past, the Ringing Stone used to stand upright (much like most of the other standing stones on the island). I suspect the stone fell to one side due to the heavy erosion of the sanddunes adjacent to the stone and left it laying on the natural rock. As such, i suspect the stone is actually NOT in the position it was intended.
The resemblence to the big dipper was astounding, but something wasnt quite right. Two of the stars looked slightly out of alignment which would have been very noticable to anybody who carved the marks. I had a bit of a breakthough tonight investigating the position of the stars back then. I was astounded to see that the big dipper looked different 2,000 years ago from what it looks now! In fact, it looked EXACTLY like the marks on one side of the stone with the “handle” of the pot, more tipped upwards in the other direction! I’ve also now got some good evidence for the marks on the other side of the stone, and believe they’re of a particular star in the Southern Sky. So, my theory is that the stone was a marker for the North and South most prominent constellations. I believe it stood upright in the dunes/field , looking out to sea on the North Tiree coastline. The side facing North was marked with URSA MAJOR and the south with it’s counterpart (more on that later). It was a marker, a tribute, a shrine to the stars in the sky which were always there through Winter and Summer, providing constant faith and hope to the people of Tiree that their crops and animals were looked after. As for the ringing? A story made up to increase tourism and based on the metallic properties of the rock content only. I do believe these are “star markers” and nothing else. I’m taking my little journal and findings up to Tiree in December to complete my project whilst visiting our cottage.