I am writing to add my voice to those who are petitioning Glasgow City Council that the modern stone circle at Sighthill – erected in the late 1970s under the guidance of Duncan Lunan – be preserved from destruction.
The idea of the circle was to remind people that new research, mainly by Alexander Thom, was then suggesting that in the third millennium BC our Neolithic forefathers possessed many more esoteric skills than orthodox archaeological research had suspected up until then.
In particular, the new circle was aligned on the midsummer sunrise and, in the opposite direction, the midwinter sunset, to commemorate the numerous astronomical alignments which Mr Thom has discovered in prehistoric standing stones and stone circles.
The circle was dedicated to four researchers with connections to Glasgow: Mr Thom (of the University of Oxford but then living in retirement in Dunlop, Ayrshire), his son Archie Thom (department of engineering, University of Glasgow), Dr Archie Roy (department of astronomy, University of Glasgow) and myself.
I was the only professional archaeologist of the four, and am the only one still active in research. I was then at the Hunterian Museum in the university. A time capsule was buried during construction containing books and articles by the four of us.
Partly because they implied a fundamental re-think about the nature of British Neolithic society, Mr Thom's ideas were always controversial among archaeologists, but it did then seem possible that some of them might be accepted.
Unfortunately since then my profession, which does tend towards conservatism, has turned its collective back on those controversies and (with the occasional exception) no longer discusses Mr Thom's ideas or searches for evidence to test them.
This attitude is well represented by the words of an ex-colleague at the Hunterian who not long ago said about a lecture I was to deliver on the subject: "I don't believe any of that."
However, over the past 15 or so years there has been a steady accumulation of a diversity of new evidence suggesting Mr Thom was essentially right in many, if not most, of his main deductions.
It would, I think, be a tragedy if the Sighthill circle – this far-sighted memorial to his work – was destroyed just as the tide was beginning to turn in archaeology, and when our view of our prehistoric ancestors was starting to change fundamentally.
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