An investigation of an Aberdeenshire ritual landscape: a site of human sacrifice associated with Venus

David Alexander Nance* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


A group of intervisible prehistoric monuments delineate a ritual landscape of 102 kilometres near Hatton of Fintray, Aberdeenshire. They act as back and foresights on solar and lunar horizon rising and setting extremes when viewed one from another. The identities of the local deities, syncretised as parish saints, an ethnographic analogy with pre-Christian Irish chieftains and an oral tradition that one of the monuments, the Gouk Stone (Old English for ‘cuckoo’), marks the location where a ‘general’ of that name was slain, support the hypothesis that local chieftains, titled after the bird and ‘married’ to the local goddess of sovereignty that personified Venus, were tied to the stone and ritually sacrificed. This occurred on the culturally significant day of Samhain at eight-year intervals from the Bronze Age until the late Iron Age. The interval coincided with the extreme evening setting of Venus at Samhain. In support of this hypothesis the stone acted as a horizon foresight for Venus setting extremes which occurred within a few days of Samhain and as a back sight with sunset behind a stone circle on Samhain. Place-names indicate the location remained an assembly/judicial site until the Medieval Period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-209
Number of pages38
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number1-4
Early online date20 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Skyscape archaeology
  • Venus alignment
  • ritual murder
  • Bronze Age
  • ritual landscape
  • northern Britain


Dive into the research topics of 'An investigation of an Aberdeenshire ritual landscape: a site of human sacrifice associated with Venus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this