Stones of Stenness, Orkney

Named as one of the nations top ten treasured places by a vote run by RCAHMS in 2007
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Black and white photograph, c.1901-06
James Ritchie (1850-1925)
RCAHMS: James Ritchie Collection

Ink on paper, 1875
Captain W St G Burke
RCAHMS: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection

Black and white photograph, undated
Valentines and Sons Ltd, Dundee

These three different images of the Stones of Stenness were created for different purposes but all add to our knowledge of this prehistoric site. The site was constructed between 3400BC and 2500BC and comprises a ring of at least 11 uprights, the tallest stones measuring 5.7m and 5.3m. The ring of stones is enclosed within a henge,  a circular earthwork defined by an external bank and an internal ditch broken on the north by an entrance.

James Ritchie, headmaster at Port Elphinstone School, Aberdeenshire, was a keen amateur photographer who travelled extensively to photograph stones circles and Pictish stones.  It is not known when Ritchie visited the Orkney Islands, but this photograph of the Stones of Stenness must have been taken before 31 August 1906, when the fallen monolith was raised during a programme of restoration by the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

Captain Burke, Royal Engineer, compiled a delightful portfolio of ink drawings whilst employed on the Ordnance Survey of Orkney and Shetland in 1875. The commercial photographers, Valentine and Sons Ltd, regularly published postcards of ancient monuments which were always popular with the tourist market.