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'Prehistoric' stone circle dupes archaeologists by a few thousand years

Stonehenge it's not.

No matter its age, the stone circle is still very scenic.

Aberdeenshire Council

Stonehenge may be the world's most famous stone circle, but the British isles are dotted with the ancient creations. When archaeologists identified a previously unknown stone circle on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in December, it was a cause for celebration. But the party didn't last long.

The Aberdeenshire Council announced on Monday that the stone circle, originally identified as dating to around 3,500-4,500 years ago, is actually only a couple of decades old.

"This amazing new site adds to our knowledge of these unique monuments and of the prehistoric archaeology of the area," Aberdeenshire Council archaeologist Neil Ackerman said in the original announcement.

Ackerman has a sense of humor about the misidentification, writing on Twitter, "If you are having an awkward day at work, at least you're not that guy who identified a new prehistoric stone circle to the press that now turns out to be about 20 years old."

The current owner of the farm where the recumbent stone circle sits reported it to the council. A former owner of the land later contacted one of the archaeologists to say the formation was built in the mid-1990s. 

While the researchers now know the circle is modern, there's still some controversy around the exact age. Some commentators on the Aberdeenshire Council Facebook page are saying the circle actually dates back at least 30 or 40 years.

Ackerman is looking on the bright side of the stones. "That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community," he says.