IT had rounded off a “fantastic year for archaeology in north-east Scotland”. Last month, a stone circle found on an Aberdeenshire farm was hailed a major discovery after it was revealed to the local council.

The area is renowned for recumbent stone circles, which are particular to the north-east where they were constructed 3500-4500 years ago. Their main feature is a large horizontal stone flanked by two upright stones, usually placed between the south-east to south-west of the circle. It is believed such stone circles may have been used in prehistoric times to record the seasons or perform funeral and ceremonial rites.

A team of experts including Neil Ackerman, historic environment record assistant at the council, and Historic Environment Scotland’s Adam Welfare hot footed it to the site near Leochel-Cushnie, where they left no stone unturned in unearthing the truth.

While fitting the recumbent stone circle model, the team admitted the Leochel-Cushnie discovery represented a “slightly unusual example”.

Welfare said: “In numbering 10 stones it fits the average, but its diameter is about three metres smaller than any known hitherto, and it is unusual in that all the stones are proportionately small.”

A portable model, perhaps?

Welfare continued: “It is orientated SSW and enjoys a fine outlook in that direction, while the rich lichen cover on the stones is indicative of the ring’s antiquity.”

Ahhh, moss and stones – that most scientific rule of thumb.

Ackerman added: “This amazing new site adds to our knowledge of these unique monuments and of the prehistoric archaeology of the area.

“To be able to add a site like this to the record caps off what has been a fantastic year for archaeology in north-east Scotland.”

He also mused that it is rare for such sites to go undiscovered for so long, especially in such good condition.

Anyone detect a whiff of rat?

Alas, the red-faced archaeologists have now confirmed that, rather than being thousands of years old, the stones date back to the 90s. The 1990s, that is.

To be fair, the researchers had spoken to a member of a local farming family, now in her 80s, who said she remembered seeing the stone circle in the 1930s. However, a previous owner of the farm where the circle was found has now come forward to confirm he built it himself in the 1990s. He didn’t explain why he decided to construct a stone circle. It can only be assumed that you make your own fun in such remote parts.

Understandably, the archaeological research project has been “cut short”.

Ackerman has taken it in good part, though.

“It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story,” he said in an amiable climbdown. “I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed – while not ancient, it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape.”

All credit to Ackerman, who realised that, when in a hole, it’s best to stop digging.