about : a cairn & 24 stones
« Barpa Langais » Whenever I arrive or depart the Uists I usually go via the Lochmaddy ferry from North Uist and pass the hill of Bhein Langais. On its north-western slope is a Bronze Age chambered burial cairn, Barpa Langais, from the 3rd Millennium BC, the best preserved Neolithic chambered cairn in the Western Isles — probably the site of internments for tribal elders, ancestors or warriors. Fragments of Beaker pottery found there and artefacts made from Bronze indicate that the tomb was likely to have been in continuous use for a thousand years. The stones of Barpa Langais are Lewissian Gneiss, one of the oldest rocks on Earth.
In passing the hill, I'm always conscious of the fact that four or five thousand years ago a Bronze Age people lived, worked and celebrated ceremonial or religious rites there; hunter-gatherers and later farmers, a Beaker people, known for the bell-shapes and unique patterns of their pottery, who arrived in Britain from the Aegean about four thousand years ago. Compared to the Beaker People, we Norse / Gaels are newcomers to the Hebrides. The hill is modest in scale when viewed from the road below but mysterious and far-reaching once you reach the summit, with striking views over Loch Langais, Loch Eport, the hills of North and South Lee and Eaval.
« Pobull Fhinn »
Lower down the southern slope of Barpa Langais on a small natural plateau, is a ring of stones on a platform, or terrace, cut into the hillside in the 2nd Millennium BC — the Middle Bronze Age, when Homer's tale of the Trojan War, The Iliad, takes place. Facing north-west, the ring, more accurately an oval, is heather-bound, tangled in ferns and known as Pobull Fhinn, the White or Fair People.
Twenty-four pillars and irregular stones standing upright or fallen, eight on the northern and sixteen on the southern half of the ring; the location carefully chosen to look to the horizon and the distant peaks of the Inner Hebrides, determining accurate alignments to sunsets, sunrises, summer and winter solstices, a focus for ritual and ceremony.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin and the process of making bronze implements from these elements requires a very high temperature and a purpose-built furnace or cauldron. The Pobull Fhinn ring, in local folklore: Sòrnach a' Phobaill, The Fireplace of the People, is a title mysterious enough to match the drama of the location.