The stones shown in these photographs are part of the famous Neolithic ritual installation at Calanais, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. They have been standing on this ground for 5,000 years.
Calanais is extremely impressive, and makes a profound impact on the rugged Hebridean landscape. The original purpose, and (ongoing) spiritual significance of the place has been the subject of much research and many competing theories – the site is believed to have been a centre for ritual activity for at least 2,000 years. But quite apart from all of that there is a profound secular beauty that resonates among these stones. That beauty exists in the place, and in the views from it, but it is enhanced positively by the stones – which seem to engage with each other, creating countless sequences of specific spatial dialogue.
That these huge pieces of Lewisian gneiss could be manoeuvred and then erected on this ground is impressive in itself, but the fact that they are still standing five millennia later is utterly staggering. Some of the weather-beaten stones are so massive; they begin to feel like sheer cliff faces that have sprouted from the earth.
The weathering on the stones gives them an intense organic quality. It feels like these objects, which were modelled and manipulated in to these positions by people, have reverted to a natural state. Having been ‘made’ and ‘built’; they now seem to have become an essential quasi-natural feature in this beautiful landscape.