Scotland and the Cygnus Constellation


Paper Submitted: 22nd December 2010, Published: 1st March 2011

Final Update: 30th March 2012

Author: Derek Cunningham


2016 July Website Ad Page The Long JourneyA series of sites in Scotland have several common structural features that suggests they might be a dispersed group of ancient geoglyphs. The proposed geoglyphs are located close to important 9th to 11th century religious centers, and are distributed in a pattern similar to the constellation Cygnus. Analysis of one of the sites (the Loch Stemster site) suggests that a stone horseshoe structure might have been constructed to mimic neighbouring alignment lines that run through a nearby lake.

[Editors Note: Though this article does not generate much hope that an entirely new theory will develop from this study, every idea has to begin somewhere, and this paper and all the other papers subsequently published in this journal shows the very important need to permit ideas to be tested, and if the theory survives a carefully constructed battery of test, to simply try again, and again, and again to destroy the theory. It is worth considering that if it was not for this first, very unpromising study, the presence of astronomical texts in ancient drawings may never have been discovered.]


In this paper, a series of possible geoglyph sites are studied to determine if they are connected. The sites were studied because of their location near important religious site, or because they were located at regions considered important to the various Kingdoms that once ruled ancient Scotland. The patterns observed at each site are, for the most part, very indistinct, and appear only to be “different” from the surroundings. However, certain secondary features exist at each sites that are able to tentatively link the sites together.  These include the presence of unusual triangular lakes that may have lines running through them, this occurs at two sites; and at one sites there is an unusual horseshoe-shaped stone structure that creates an alignment parallel to the lines running through a nearby circular lake. The lake and horseshoe structure point “parallel alignment lines” from northeast Scotland to the head of the proposed pattern, at the important 9th century religious center of Holy Island in Northern England. The Holy Island site is anciently connected to it’s parent Abbey on the Island of Iona in Scotland (1), where an indistinct “X” pattern can be found.

The intrigue surrounding the sites of Holy Island (2), Dunkeld (3) and Iona is that, when the various sites are taken together, the sites appear to create the general shape of the head and wing stars of the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. The Swan is often associated with British royalty, and is often described as the Northern Cross, so the drawing created also appears similar to the Scottish Flag, the St Andrews Cross. Strangely, the town of St Andrews occurs at the same latitude as the abbey at Iona. In addition, Holy Island, which is linked to the Abbey of Iona is located at the same longitude as Stonehenge, in England.

To test a hypothesis that suddenly came to me from a study that was looking for the historical reason for the location of ancient religious centres throughout Scotland the impression obtained was that the sites might be more ancient than previously thought, and that they were placed at their rather unusual locations deliberately to replicate the shape of the constellation called The Swan. A brief analysis of satellite images then revealed some unusual marks in the ground at sites close to the important ancient centres. In this paper, the aim of the study was to simply see if any of the observed sites contain internal alignments that can align the proposed drawing to any of the other sites highlighted. Though the result was largely negative, some other features were seen that prompted the need for additional studies.

Archaeological and Astronomical Data

As just mentioned the preliminary study of the Cygnus Swan pattern over Scotland was driven by a prior unpublished study (5) that identified that the first religious centers in Scotland were constructed in a pattern replicating the Cygnus Constellation (also known as the Swan or the Northern Cross.

Starting from a tentative theory that the positions of the Scottish religious centers were chosen deliberately, it was decided to study the locations in more detail.

Fig. 1. Cygnus constellation (modern star locations) placed over an Ordnance Survey map of Scotland.

To begin, a Mercator-based map of the constellation Cygnus was plotted over an Ordnance Survey (OS) map of Scotland (Fig. 1). A Mercator projection for the stars was used, in order that the same approximate map types were being used. Though there is some distortion between the two map, the distortion is for the purpose of this specific test relatively small and unimportant, producing errors in the order of 10 miles at most. Also, it should be noted that in this construction the stars are drawn onto the OS map as a mirror images of the night sky. This is caused by the observer rotating the drawn map of the night stars around, to face the ground. This is important, as any alignment to proposed star positions, is then to the virtual star locations, and not to real stars.

The scale of the Constellation was defined, very approximately, by the need for the star Deneb to lie over land, and the remaining stars to align to the religious centers of Iona, Dunkeld and Holy Island. As can be seen, using modern star positions, the initial match with the three southern religious centers is reasonable, but clearly not perfect (Fig. 1).

Upon researching the sites in more detail, it was noticed that the longitude of Stonehenge at lat/long 51.1784, -1.8240 is similar to that of Holy Island at 55.6799, -1.7909. This, coupled with a latitudinal link between St Andrews Cathedral and the religious center of Iona, suggests the possibility (albeit small) of a deliberate link. The hypothesis, of a longitudinal link between sites, would be at odds with prior research, that argue, to measure longitude with such accuracy, it would be necessary to measure time to an accuracy of seconds, and to also know the exact time at a standard reference location.

To confirm the hypothesis that the dispersed sites are linked to an ancient drawing of the constellation Cygnus is obviously very difficult. Thus the intent of this study was to argue the opposite, and to attempt to disprove the theory by showing the lack of any real solid evidence to support the proposed hypothesis.

Now it is known that over several thousand years stars will move, and that the shape of constellations will begin to visibly change. This theoretically could account for the imperfect fit seen between the drawing of the constellation and the location of Scotland’s primary religious sites (Fig. 1). However, because this is a preliminary study, it is first required to study each region, to see if there are any unusual, common structures found within the vicinity of each location noted in the drawn map. The motion of the stars will be discussed later.

Turning first to the physical appearance of the sites identified by each star, the first substantial discovery is finding a number of unusual grooves within 10 to 15 miles of most of the positions marked by the stars. These lines are easily seen in Google Earth Satellite images.

Though, individually, each site appears to hold no special significance, when viewed together the pattern does suggest, a small possibility, that the sites were manufactured.

Within the vicinity of δ-Cygnus (near Wick in north-east Scotland) at 58.353829N, 3.385162W, at Loch Stemster, a series of lines run through the lake (Fig. 2). Beside this lake, is a stone horseshoe structure (NGR ND188418) that creates a parallel “alignment” to the lines running through the lake.

Fig. 2. Loch Stemster and the nearby horseshoe standing stone structure. Satellite image obtained from Google maps.

Analysis of the Loch Stemster lines shows that they surprisingly point, with reasonable accuracy, towards Holy Island, to the head of the proposed Cygnus Constellation pattern (see Figure 1). The lines thus might potentially be a series of internal alignment lines, which if correct would produce the first tentative evidence of a neolithic construction designed to align to a specific distant location. But as the horseshoe was partially reconstructed, after the structure was damage by the construction of the nearby road, its alignment is subject to review.

The second site, at the location marked by the star Deneb, is Calbost on the Isle of Lewis, (58.0539053N, 6.3830566W). At Calbost an X-shape geographical feature is visible beside a heart-shaped lake called Loch na Craoibhe, (Fig. 3). In Scots Gaelic the word Craobh, means either tree, or “to spread out/diffuse”.

Though no stone structure could be observed at the Calbost site, the combination of a heart shaped lake and an “X” shaped structure again creates a suggestion that the site may have been manufactured. The presence of an X-shaped structure also appears to link to the alternative name for Cygnus, which is The Northern Cross.

However, mapping these lines in a manner similar to the lines at Achavanich reveals no internal alignment to the other proposed sites. The first line has a southeast bearing that travels towards Australia. The second line points towards the tip of South America. .

Fig. 3. Series of lines located at Calbost, Loch na Craoibhe. Satellite image Google maps.

The third site studied is to the east of the town of Pitlochry and north of Dunkeld  (56.66ooN, -3.5760W). At this site there occurs somewhat unexpectedly a second heart-shaped lake (Fig. 4) named Lochan Oisinneach which in Scots Gaelic translated to “Small Lake of Angles” (53). The presence of this heart-shaped lake, potentially could be taken as a link to the Calbost site, but their dimensions, and orientations are largely different. Within the vicinity of this lake lies a series of barely visible fragmentary lines. In many cases the lines are highly questionable, and if one assumes the theory to be correct, they could only be considered at best to be heavily eroded lines with numerous gaps present. Some of the lines appear to travel through nearby Loch Benachally (which is the foot-shaped lake to the south east of Fig. 4. The appearance of Loch Benachally with triangular inserts extending into the water is somewhat similar to the features seen at Loch Stemster, and thus the Dunkeld site has two features that may link to both the Loch Stemster and Calbost locations. As with the Calbost site none of these lines appear to be internal alignment lines. In figure 4, the primary region of “structured” lines are those in the upper middle part of Fig. 4a, seen partially under the word Dunkeld.

Fig. 4. Location of lines lying to the east of the town of Pitlochry and north of Dunkeld. Satellite image obtained from Google maps. In this case the most prominent lines are seen directly under the the letter D of the place-name Dunkeld in figure 4a. The other lines shown are tentative assignments.

At ϒ-Cygnus, in the vicinity of Loch Monar, the terrain is mountainous, with almost no flat land available to create alignment lines (Fig. 5). At 57.413899N, 5.201340W a series of parallel groove lines was found, but these lines are very different to those seen at the three previous sites and are almost certainly natural formations. The inclusion of the lines here are simply to show the type of pattern seen at the predicted location, based on the location of the stars. In the second paper this specific region is reanalyzed which leads to the discovery of a nearby, barely visible cross pattern. The reason for not describing the pattern here will become clear in paper 2.

Fig. 5. Location of lines lying to the west of Loch Monar. These lines are natural formations. Satellite image obtained from Google maps.

The wing of Cygnus lies beside the Island of Iona (Fig. 6). At Iona no alignment lines could be identified, but on the nearby Isle of Mull at 56.30434N, -6.32263W, in a wide angle view, a region containing an apparent “X” shape, stood out. But one of the arms of the X is on a larger curved feature. In looking at this site in more detail the features are not as distinct as those seen at the Calbost site, and little is present in this image to strongly argue the presence of geoglyphs.

Fig. 6. Lines located beside Iona. Satellite image obtained from Google maps.

At the head of the Cygnus constellation at Holy Island (55.67173N, 1.801014W) in northeast England the site is heavily developed and no signs of unusual grooves could be found.

Though at first the data does not appear promising, the presence of one megalithic structure exhibiting an internal alignment line, two sites showing heart shaped lakes with some indication of grooved lines, and at this point three sites showing some indications of X marks produces a “match” at two thirds of the sites.

For such a simple analysis, this is actually much better than expected, and sufficient for further work on the hypothesis (that the sites are heavily worn geoglyphs) to be justified.

Though the above six star locations are the stars normally assigned to the constellation Cygnus, it should be noted that the constellation Cygnus, as viewed now, is not complete.

A supernova event anciently occurred close to ε-Cygnus, which is the Iona Island site. The Nova remnant is known as NGC 6960 the Veil Nebula, or informally as the Witch’s Broom. Within the literature the time period for the nova event (when light from the Nova event reached Earth) ranges from circa 5,000 years in the very earliest studies to circa 15,000 years in more current studies. The location for the star that caused NGC 6960 when drawn to the scale of Scotland is difficult to identify but from initial studies may have occurred close to the Island of Jura. At Jura no X feature could be observed but a number of what might be parallel lines was observed. These parallel lines are almost certainly natural features.

Data from the various sites is shown in Fig. 7, and include “speculative lines” created from the four less well defined sites of Dunkeld, Iona, Loch Monar and  Jura.

Fig. 7. Compilation of lines generated from the various Scotland sites. Background map is a mosaic of approximately 300 Mapquest satellite images in Equirectangular (Cylindrical) Projection.

Use of land sites as alignment lines

With the suggestion that the lines at Loch Stemster are alignment lines, the most obvious next step is to create an internal test.

If the initially chosen site “alignment lines”, overlap with “alignment lines” created using the actual physical layout of the Cygnus sites, see Fig. 7, it can be argued that the lines are potential geoglyphs. In this case we are now creating alignment lines through the proposed geoglyphs. The location of the Holy Island site is approximate because no potential geoglyph was discovered at this site.

Fig. 8. Alignment lines created using the Cygnus land sites. Ordnance Survey Map.

From Figure 8, four sites occur under the created Cygnus alignment lines that appear significant; Nazca, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Giza. This, however, is clearly a biased analysis, as the interest shown here is on “famous” locations, which may well not be contemporary with the proposed pattern.

Though these alignment lines appear to be classical “Ley lines, it is important to note that the purpose here is different.

The purpose is to see if any overlap occurs between the “Cygnus alignment lines” – lines created using the constellation Cygnus – and the alignment lines created using the lines discovered at the proposed geoglyph sites. If there is an overlap then perhaps the pattern can be considered valid. In addition this experiment leads us into a secondary component of the pattern that relates to the measurement of time. With the pattern being so large there is the implication that if the drawn image is real, the builders must have been able to calculate time to the accuracy of seconds. With that degree of accuracy it then becomes possible to measure longitude, and a knowledge of longitude permits civilizations to navigate long distances.

From the list produced it is found that Nazca, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Giza), two sites Nazca and the Giza Pyramids of Egypt appear in both sets of data. At this point really no significance should really be given to the names of the locations overlapped, but the natural inclination is to find the list very intriguing, given the historical importance behind these sites.

Discussion and Conclusions

With the constellation Cygnus creating, in two cases, the same alignment as those seen at the proposed geoglyph sites, the hypothesis (that the Scotland sites might be geoglyphs) can now be easily tested.  With one “alignment line” traveling towards the Giza Pyramids, the obvious next step is to match the observed ground pattern drawn over Scotland to the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Previous work, often assigned to Andrew Collins, but actually undertaken by Andrew’s friend Rodney Hale, in the year 2005 compared the layout of the Great Pyramids to the constellation Cygnus. So a prior study comparing the Great Pyramids to Cygnus has already been done. However, an important difference (which strongly affects the handling of the data) is that Rodney Hales earlier work employed standard astronomical images, whereas here the projections are drawn in Mercator format. This creates substantial distortions in the positions of the stars at Northern Latitudes, but has the advantage that it plots the star map as a planar representation.

For the proposed study, the emphasis for the next test will thus be placed on matching the location of the Scottish land sites to the Giza Pyramids, and not the stars positions which are mobile.

Thus for the hypothesis to now survive the proposed Scotland geoglyph pattern must exactly replicate the layout of the Great Pyramid of Giza. If no match is found –  between the layout of the Giza Pyramids and the proposed Scottish geoglyph sites – the conclusion that can be naturally drawn is the Scottish sites (which are largely located beside important religious centers, or the centers of ancient Kingdoms) must then be natural formations, and the theory will be successfully disproven.

If against all odds, a match between the Scotland sites and the Pyramids is found, the hypothesis will have passed a destructive test, and the hypothesis will transition and become a “potential” theory, even though the initial observation that started this work is based on the one observation that the ground patterns observed appeared marginally different from the surrounding terrain. Though the hypothesis and the images appear at this point not very convincing, the results obtained are very intriguing – The results of the proposed test are presented in paper 2.

[Editors Note: As noted earlier that it was only later that it was realized that the geometric symbols present at these ground sites aligned to astronomical values. This explains why the various X-marks present are not identical, as they each align to different astronomical terms. The following hyperlink links to the geometrical-compressional text study, which was published three years after this preliminary study]


  1. Iona Abbey has had multiple names in the past, including Innis-nan-Druidhneach (Island  of the Druids); Ii (the Island of Eminence); Ii- Chollum-Chille (The Isle of Colum); and Ii-Shona (pronounce Ee-hona), from which the modern English Spelling is derived, from An historical account of Iona, by Lachlan Maclean, Published by James Miller Bookseller, 1841
  2. Holy Island First Bishop St Aidan was appointed in the year 635. The secondary name of Holy Island Lindisfahrne probably took it’s name from the brook called the Lindes.  Evidence of Mesolithic-era occupation comes from the discovery of flint remains recovered from a quarry at Ness End, Beavitt, P, O’sullivan, D and Young, R, 1986. Holy Island. A Guide of Current Archaeological Research.
  3. It is believed that a church at site of Dunkeld was originally constructed by Urgust the King of the Picts, and that the relics of St Columba were moved there by Kenneth Macalpine, The Historic Episcopate in the Columban Church and in the Diocese of Moray, by Rev. John Archibald, St Giles Printing Company, 1893.
  4. Malcolm MacFarlane, School Gaelic Dictionary, (1912).
  5. Author’s own research – based on unusual trends seen in Scottish land holdings.

Copyright and Disclaimer

Copyrights for maps used in this research paper belong to their respective owners. GOOGLE, Google Maps, Google Earth the “Google” logo, and other marks that incorporate the word GOOGLE , are trademarks of Google. The MapQuest name and logo, and related product and service names, design marks and slogans are the trademarks of MapQuest or AOL Inc. All other product and service marks contained herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.

© Copyrights Derek Cunningham, Midnight Science ISSN 2160-0201, Volume 1, Paper 1

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One Response to Scotland and the Cygnus Constellation

  1. Jimmy james the reptile hunter and rectifier says:

    Please stop wasting your time and money on education that doctrines retards wasting talent on dribble that has no basis for argument. Seriously, stop it. Mankind is better than this. Seriously, stop taking academic sources as grounds for credibility. These people may mean well but mislead peeps leading the sheep seems a little messed up. Dont be afraid to start from scratch. What you may find will amaze and astonish you.

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