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Three standing stones of the ancient and mysterious Ring of Brodgar (Oliver / Adobe Stock)

Vandal’s Repulsive Attack On 4500-Year-Old Ring of Brodgar is a Crime Against Humanity


Built almost 5,000 years ago at the early stages of agriculture in northern Europe, Ring of Brodgar, the third largest Neolithic stone circle in Britain has fallen victim to the scourge of society - vandals.

This famous ancient site near Stennes in Orkney has become the focus of a Highland Police investigation after the ancient standing stones were vandalized with graffiti. The vandal engraved one of the stones sometime between Friday afternoon, April 5 and Sunday morning, April 7. An article in the Scotsman says that “Officers are carrying out enquiries and are urging anyone with information to come forward.”

Graffiti left on one of the standing stones. Source: Scotsman

Graffiti left on one of the standing stones. Source: Scotsman

The Ring of Brodgar is an impressive broken ring of towering grey stones that captivate visitors’ imaginations, but the deep surrounding henge required much more time and effort to execute, measuring approximately 123 meters in diameter, 10 meters wide and three and a half meters deep. In 1973, Colin Renfrew, Disney Professor of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge estimated the builders “hacked out and removed over 66,000 metric tonnes of rubble and calculated that the task would have required around 80,000 man hours, equivalent to twenty men working five hours a day, every day, over two years.”

It has also been speculated that a three meter (10 feet) high circular bank of earth surrounded the henge enclosing the stone circle, which would have made the structure a powerful symbol of order and harmony in an otherwise wild landscape. And now, some egotistical moron defaces the artifact. Inspector David Hall told reporters that “For someone to damage them in this way is a particularly mindless act” and this growing problem is not restricted to Scotland.

Only last year I wrote an article on Ancient Origins titled Vandalism at Ancient Sites, Who Really Cares Anyway? about a unit of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers searching for two people who etched their names over an “ancient bison at a Native American site at Kanopolis Lake, causing irreversible damage to the petroglyphs. And in another instance, an article on described vandals in Chile destroying a range of “ancient animal carvings” in hunters’ caves. 

The 5,000-year-old Ring of Brodgar (David Woods / Adobe Stock)

The 5,000-year-old Ring of Brodgar (David Woods / Adobe Stock)

What Is Happening Here?

In my previous article, I quoted psychologist Arnold P. Goldstein of Syracuse University, New York who says “Vandalism is a serious and growing problem in the United States as higher and perhaps more dramatic expressions and concomitants of aggression - fights, assaults, gangs, guns, the drug trade -have grown and increasingly commanded public and professional attention and the focus on its less damaging expressions has diminished.”

And with society at large experiencing increasing violence many younger people have become numb to such acts as vandalism at ancient sites. It is the same numbness in the vandal, according to Goldstein “which is found reflected in so many citizens who are completely detached from their heritage and any concerns of yesterday.”

So where do our vagrant youth get their ideas from? We might turn to a 2015 CBC article which covered the shocking destruction of the ancient city of Nimrud by ISIS militants, which was condemned by UNESCO as a war crime. Destroying statues, reliefs and the remains of an entire city more than 3,000 years old is archaeological vandalism being used by extreme groups attempting to erase, then re-write history with their own ideologies. That particular rampage also saw the destruction of statues in a museum at Mosul, tombs and libraries, plus the ancient cities of Khorsabad, Hatra and Bosra.

When you think about it, when adults are displaying such moronic acts of violence, why would children do any different? This problem comes from the top down! Adults to children.

These Are Acts Against Humanity

Archaeologists, anthropologist, biologists and geologists are restricted to studying fragmentary remains of ruins and attempt to salvage the truth of what actually happened in the past. They don't have a lot of evidence with which to attempt to reconstruct ancient cultures and civilizations and they piece together data gathered from building foundations, broken statues, faded artworks and tomb engravings, and “standing stones”. Thus, the willful damage of any ancient artifact is a direct offense to the already limited story of how we got to where we are today. It isn’t just vandalism; it's a crime against the rudimentary levels of humanity.

Inspector David Hall in Orkney said: “The stones at the Ring of Brodgar are priceless historical artifacts and the damage caused cannot simply be estimated in monetary terms” and he urges anyone who visited the area last weekend “to think back and if they believe they may have seen something suspicious, even if it didn’t seem of much note at the time, to let us know.” He added “We would also urge the public to continue to be vigilant at this site and report anything which could be of interest to police immediately.”

Top image: Three standing stones of the ancient and mysterious Ring of Brodgar (Oliver / Adobe Stock)

By Ashley Cowie



Gary Moran's picture

Maybe on their foreheads ALA the scarlet letter. Put it where they can’t hide it.

We should make an example of these vandals and carve graffiti on their chests

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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