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Analysis of Results

Alexander Thom had found many apparently precise alignments, mainly for the moon.    The fact that his selection of the best 40 of these (Thom & Thom 1978, 1980; A.S. Thom 1981) were from widely scattered geographical regions, were selected on the basis of giving precise alignments and were for a variety of prehistoric remains led to support for the possibility that that they, or at least most of them, could be due to chance.  (See Introduction: 'History' for details).   The present investigation was planned on the basis of avoiding these criticisms.


  • One region - Argyll from Onich to Tayvallich was chosen
  • Only standing stones, pairs & short rows with an indicated direction were investigated
  • Within this group there was NO selection.

The importance of investigating a group of similar structures in a given geographical area has been mentioned in the literature in the past by several observers     ( e.g  Ruggles 1999, p76, p90, Chap.5, p 142),  Burl, in Heggie 1982, p45 ) ).  Investigations have been carried out on some groups, namely Recumbent Stone Circles and Clava Cairns/ Passage Graves testing for orientations.    I.e. approximate directions indicated only by the structure itself. (Probably ±1º at best )   (e.g. Ruggles (1999, pp 121 - 122;  Burl in Ruggles and Whittle 1981, pp257 – 265 ). However it appears that no such investigation of a group has been carried out for the specific purpose of testing the hypothesis that at least some stones were set up for precise alignments.  I.e. the stone(s)  providing the viewing point (backsight) and the direction to an horizon feature with potentially 1’ arc precision in declination, which is 100 times more precise than an orientation.

(Note:- The results of Thom’s original work relating to precise lunar alignments is contained in table 7.1 in MLO (1971).    Determination of declination was based on:-

  • A foresight, the direction of which was indicated by a backsight with an indicated direction.
  • A constant value for the lunar perturbation ( Δ ) of 9’ arc
  • Mean values for parallax and standard values for refraction.

This was termed Level 3 by Ruggles and is the level adopted in this investigation    (Levels 1 & 2 did not involve foresights)

Later in 1978 – 1982 the Thoms (father & son) worked together in an attempt to improve their data.   They introduced a number of refinements which Ruggles termed level 4.  For more details see  here. )


When work began (in May 2007) it was unknown what alignments, if any, might be found.   The hope was, however, that the results would help to resolve the question of whether or not intentional precise alignments existed.

The region in Argyll chosen contains 34 sites. ( List of 34 stones ) Trees, buildings, fallen stones prevented measurements at 12 sites. Of the remaining 23, eight gave no lunar alignments but all had plausible other explanations as detailed earlier.

For the remaining 14 sites it was found that:-

  • At twelve sites there is good evidence that at each site there is an alignment in the indicated lunar band for one of the important  'wobble' alignments.  i.e. for ± s ± Δ .    In each case the foresight appears to have been chosen with care in order to avoid possible uncertainty about the intended skyline feature used.
  • In one case ('Lower Fernoch' #34), where the stone is fallen there is strictly no indicated direction, but there is only one lunar band with potential for an alignment and as discussed  in  'Lower Fernoch' #34 there are good reasons for 'reconstructing' the site.  In addition there is good evidence that it is paired with and complements a neighbouring site (Barnashaig #32)   See Tayvallich 3 stone group
  • One is uncertain but possibly lunar (Barbreck #13)

Thom investigated fully only two of these (#20, #21 ).

(For discussion of the required knowledge/ understanding  of the moon’s movements in order to set up alignments see Possible Original Methods in 'Some New Ideas'.        It essentially involved little more than careful observation and record keeping).

There follows links to several Tables

  1.  Summary of Alignments
  2. Declination values found
  3. Theodolite  measurements


(5)  Alignments found at Major Standstill with ±Î”

(See notes below :- )


Notes :-

(1)  Regular font -  North declination  Italics -  South declination

(2)  Three apparent alignments for no Δ are discussed separately  (#2 Achara, #18 Glennan , #20Nether Largie  )

(3)  For the two Minor Standstill Alignments see #12 Sluggan, #18 Glennan

An alternative diagramatic representation of the above with lunar phases/alignments (after L.V.Morrison 1980)