This section is pretty much a straightforward recreation of the old GNAS website originally created by Colin Bell (Harry’s son). In one of the site’s last incarnations in 2012, Colin wrote:
It’s a miracle that the Glasgow Network has survived. Though it was in use as far back as the Bronze Age, its original purpose has been forgotten and nowadays millions of people walk over it every day unaware of its existence. Centuries of housing and industrial development have obliterated surface traces of Glasgow’s first settlements, but we now know that special sites in the area 4,000 years ago were placed in alignment with the surrounding hills.In the tree-covered wilderness of the Clyde Valley this helped you find your way back to them.
Because the first Glaswegians were so methodical about placing these sites in alignment with hills like Duncolm, Dumgoyne and Dunwan, it’s surprisingly easy to pin-point the places in the city where the prehistoric alignments surface – it’s just that up till now we never noticed it!
Though these sites were later built over, we are left with a network of invisible lines that ran between them and can still be traced through ruined castles, churchyards and ancient mounds in the hidden corners of the city. Places like Govan Old Parish Church, Crookston Castle, and Provan Hall are all linked to the Network. Not that these buildings themselves are of any great antiquity – it’s the sites they occupy that are important. Our prehistoric ancestors chose the most suitable sites for their purpose and nobody put a ‘listed building’ order on them. In many cases they were used time and time again. Once you know the invisible pattern you’ll never see Glasgow the same way again!
The alignments were first described by Harry Bell in a small book called Glasgow’s Secret Geometry (ISBN 0-9506219-1-9) first printed in 1984. The book was not taken seriously in 1984 because Glasgow was thought on as a medieval creation and alignments of sites from different periods in history were looked on as a map exercise rather than the result of serious research. Nobody realised back then that the real wonders of the Glasgow Network do not show up on maps – the inter-visibility of distant sites, the way alignments cross and recross the most prominent points in the landscape, and above all the theory’s predictive capacity – how new sites were discovered and others thought to be medieval or Roman when the book was first printed are now known to have had earlier Bronze Age occupancy.
Harry Bell was a certificated Field Archaeologist and his work makes no assertions that without substantial proof. His account of the Network’s discovery, summarised on this Web site, is divided into the five necessary steps of any serious archaeological research – Observation, Classification, Hypothesis, Prediction and Test. It is also an engaging personal story of how a hobby gradually became an obsession. Harry Bell died in October 2001 and this site fulfils Harry’s wish that his many years of research would be available for future generations.
- The Observation section explains how the research began with an interest in the work of Alfred Watkins, who first studied leys or leylines in the 1920’s.
- The Classification section details Bell’s early field research, his rejection of ley-line mythology, and the reason for re-classifying his alignments as PSAs (Prehistoric Site Alignments).
- In the Hypothesis section Bell introduces a working hypothesis – a supposition to be proved or disproved at a later date. His hypothesis was that Glasgow is built over a framework of prehistoric communication lines.
- The Prediction section shows how testing the hypothesis helped to predict the location of sites dating back to the Bronze Age. In the process of their discovery Bell added a new word to the English language – archaeo-orienteering.
- The Test section illustrates how alignments radiating from only four sites within the city interlock perfectly, forming a larger system called the Glasgow Network of Aligned Sites.
These alignments run straight as a rifle shot through the oldest man-made structures in Glasgow, Bothwell, Carmunock, Crookston, Castlemilk, Dumbarton, Drumchapel, Easterhouse, East Kilbride, Govan, Hamilton, Inchinnan, Kilsyth, Old Kilpatrick, Paisley, Renfrew and Rutherglen. No matter whether it is a castle, church, burial site or habitation, the oldest known site in each of these 17 communities has an alignment passing through it. No amount of ‘observer bias’ could conjure up this result artificially. This is clear statistical proof that the present layout of Glasgow evolved from a long-forgotten framework of Prehistoric Site Alignments which are accurately sighted onto the surrounding hills.
Alignment research has blown hot and cold on the fringe of archaeology since Sir Norman Lockyer published Stonehenge and Other British Stone Monuments Astronomically Considered in 1906. In it, Lockyer described some alignments in the vicinity of Stonehenge which had been drawn to his attention by the director general of the Ordnance Survey. Controversially, he included Salisbury Cathedral on one of his alignments because he thought it possible that the cathedral occupied an earlier site.
In 1912, Walter Johnson introduced this line of reasoning to a wider public in his popular Byways of British Archaeology, which demonstrated the continuity of religious tradition in Britain with instances of churches built on pagan sites, many of them within earthworks.
Alfred Watkins took this idea a step further in 1922 when he wrote Early British Trackways, and in 1925 when he wrote The Old Straight Track (ISBN 0349137048) which introduced the concept of leys.
Watkins was a Hereford man, a gentleman amateur who observed that many of the mounds, moats, beacon hills and fords of his native county fell into alignment with each other. Between these points he found castles, churches, mark stones and wayside crosses which he thought might also have occupied prehistoric sites. Watkins surmised that these landmarks were all that remained of a system of tracks once used by prehistoric traders in salt, flint, and (later) metals, who had laid out their routes with staves and marked the way at intervals with stones. Many of these alignments passed through open woodland glades, and because of this Watkins called them leys, a name derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘a forest clearing’. Though the original leys were now overgrown and invisible, Watkins maintained they could still be traced by careful mapwork and investigation in the field.
Unfortunately The Old Straight Track had too many inaccuracies and too much speculation for archaeologists to take it seriously. No sensible traveller would have used a track that led straight through forests, bogs, and lakes, so after Watkins died his theory was ignored by the professionals and kept alive only by a few amateurs and Sunday afternoon ramblers.
Half a century later a new generation of enthusiasts were on the scene all fully aware of the shortcomings of leys as trackways. But they were still finding them. Some postulated they were underground water lines which could be detected by means of dowsing rods; some interpreted them as psychic power lines that criss-crossed the countryside radiating from storehouses of spiritual energy; and some claimed they were navigational aids for UFO’s.
Ley-lines had been found all over England, were there any in Scotland?
Bell’s alignment research started at a mound called the De’il’s Plantin (Devil’s Plantation) in the middle of a long, straight stretch of road seven miles south of Glasgow. In a landscape dotted with ancient sites he was not surprised to find that some of these sites fell into alignment; what did surprise him was that these alignments seemed to follow a definite pattern. Sooner or later they linked up with lines of sites leading to Duncolm, the highest of the Kilpatrick hills on the north side of the Clyde.
Evening classes at Glasgow University Department of Archaeology threw no further light on the subject. Though it was only ten miles away, no one had ever heard of Duncolm. Ley hunting was purely an English pastime, Bell was told. Like cricket, it had never quite caught on in Scotland. Its eccentric devotees were firmly classified as the lunatic fringe of archaeology, just one step removed from the Flat Earth Society.
‘It would be a mistake to presume my alignments did not exist because they did not fit current archaeological theories. It would also be a mistake to presume that since they apparently do exist, they must fit one of the wide range of theories evolved by researchers who had found similar lines in England.
‘From what I had read in The Ley Hunter magazine and elsewhere, it seemed that most English researchers now believed their ley-lines followed invisible ‘lines of force’ across the country. As the only lines I had found were simple overland alignments of hilltops and ancient man-made features detected without recourse to dowsing or astronomy, I felt I could hardly call them ley-lines. They were not the same thing. Some of my alignments were in line of sight between inter-visible points, others were connecting lines linking sites on different alignments – each line was joined, at an important point along its length, to another line. For this reason I classified them, in the loosest possible sense, as prehistoric communication lines. But whether this was a definition or a supposition, I was by no means certain.
‘In the first alignment maps I drew, I used the term PCLs – Prehistoric Communication Lines. The name proved unacceptable in archaeological debate because it implied that A, my alignments existed, and B, I knew what they had been used for. To get round this, I changed the name to PSAs – Prehistoric Site Alignments. No-one could argue with this name, because whether my lines were real or imaginary they were still prehistoric site alignments. By ‘pre-historic’ I meant that sites on the alignment dated to the time before recorded history in that particular area. This last part was quite important, as it gave me in theory, a wider range of acceptable dates for the sites on my alignments maps.’ (Bell, Glasgow’s Secret Geometry)
One of the recurring arguments against Bell’s PSAs was the fact that as far as anyone in archaeology knew, there was no record of alignments or anything of that nature in any of the old books on Glasgow. There is, however, a fairly believable account of the origins of Glasgow Cathedral. St. Mungo (aka Kentigern) is said to have led a burial procession down through the Campsie Fells to bury Fergus the holy man in a cemetery that now lies beneath the flagstones of the Cathedral crypt. Bell was curious about the route taken to the cemetery and his next step was to search for the earliest written account of St. Mungo’s journey to Glasgow. He hoped that in the record of this journey there would be a clue about the nature of early roads or tracks in the Glasgow area.
‘Many a tedious old volume I had to read through before I learned that when Bishop Jocelyn was rebuilding Glasgow Cathedral in the 12th Century, he had commissioned a hagiographer from Furness Abbey to revise St. Mungo’s biography. Two copies of this book survive, one in the British Museum, the other in Dublin. To my delight, however, I unearthed a translated and edited version in the Glasgow Room of the Mitchell Library. In this book, The Life of S. Kentigern, I finally found what I was looking for – the earliest known reference to a road or track in the Glasgow area. It appears in the following extract from chapter nine:
‘And in truth, the bulls, in no way being restive, or in anything disobeying the voice of Kentigern, without any tripping or fall, came by a straight road, along where there was no path, as far as Cathures, which is now called Glasgu …’
‘I was ecstatic … In a quiet corner of the reading room, I whispered the words over and over again to myself like a mantra, ‘they came by a straight road along where there was no path’.
Bell’s priority was to find out where the Prehistoric Site Alignments originated and where they terminated. As a guideline to further research he devised a working hypothesis, a supposition to be proved or disproved at a later date. His hypothesis was that Glasgow is built over a framework of prehistoric communication lines.
The first sightline centre he discovered was at Camphill in the Queen’s Park. The ringwork at Camphill is a roughly oval-shaped enclosure, bounded by a single rampart measuring 90m across at its larger axis. It slopes towards the western side of Camphill, so a wide range of landmarks – from Dunwan Hill in the south to Dumgoyne in the north – are visible from within its confines. About 100m E of the ringwork, another vantage point presents itself in the form of the flagpole mound, a flat-topped artificial structure surmounted by a concrete and gravel platform. This platform affords views of Dechmont, Cathkin Braes and the hills above Eaglesham. Glasgow lies spread out to the north and west, with the Cathedral and Necropolis both visible despite the surrounding buildings.
Because some alignments could only be seen from the ringwork and others from the flagpole mound 100m to the east, Bell surmised that the area of the original sightline centre must have been larger than the ringwork and the flagpole mound combined.
‘I drew maps of the network and showed them to several archaeologists at the evening classes I attended. If the alignments had been found in Peru or along the banks of the Nile they would have perhaps shown more interest, but the idea of a network of prehistoric alignments running through Glasgow seemed completely unreal to them – why had nobody noticed it before?’
A year after Bell’s findings appeared in the first edition of Glasgow’s Secret Geometry, an American psychic did a ‘reading’ at Camphill ringwork with interesting results. She came to the conclusion that there were three enclosures at Camphill, not just one.
‘I feel three circles overlapping – there’s a bit in the centre that’s common to all three. The people who used these circles must have lived centuries apart.’ she said.
The picture below is a copy of the thought form diagram she drew on her visit to the ringwork.
In 1984, one of the strongest arguments against Bell’s prehistoric alignments was that Camphill ringwork had been surveyed and partially excavated by Horace Fairhurst and Jack Scott (1950-51) who concluded that it was a ‘clay castle’ of medieval date. In 1980, Eric Talbot suggested it had been an earth and timber Norman ‘ringwork’ and the site became firmly classed as Medieval.
Gradually this idea has fallen out of favour. The latest archaeological survey, by the Association of Certificated Field Archaeologists (Glasgow University) in 1996, now describes Camphill as ‘an earthwork of uncertain date and purpose, perhaps from the late prehistoric period, with some evidence of re-use in the medieval period ….’ One professional archaeologist who visited the site suggested the earliest construction date could be somewhere in the region of the 2nd millennium BCE.
The second PSA network Bell discovered radiated from Crookston Castle, which is situated inside the ramparts of an earlier ringwork.
‘Mapwork showed that Crookston Castle is sandwiched in direct alignment between Walls Hill and the Necropolis. But the Necropolis cannot be seen from Crookston, so where was this PSA first surveyed from? To answer this question I first went out to Walls Hill and made a few calculations, then next I turned my attentions to the great hilltop cemetery of the Necropolis – I went in and out that place so often at weekends, the gateman must have thought I was a vampire.
It soon became apparent that there was more to Glasgow’s Secret Geometry than I had ever imagined. Some PSAs appeared to converge on the Necropolis; others seemed to have been surveyed from the Necropolis to radiate outwards. The Duncolm/Tinto and Seedhill Craigs/ Provan Hall lines passed straight through. Some of my PSAs had only three sites on the line, but I included them in my maps if any of the three sites was an intersection on another alignment.’
‘I had set out to find one sightline centre in Glasgow, but in fact I had found three. And the way my PSAs were heading, it looked as if there could be a fourth originating at Carmyle. This one was difficult to understand. Camphill, Crookston and the Necropolis are all on high ground – the fords at Carmyle are on low ground. The two fords are over 300m apart, so the sightline centre must either have been on the banks of the Clyde between the fords, or some site now covered by the power station on the south side of the river near the weir.’
‘For a while I wondered if the ridge near the trig point at Cathkin Braes was yet another sightline centre, but the PSAs I found there seemed to be aimed at sightline centres rather than at skyline markers. This made me think that the Braes PSAs were for some reason a later addition to a network already in existence.’ (Bell, Glasgow’s Secret Geometry, 1993)
One of the Camphill PSAs led to the ringwork on the 13th green at Cathkin Braes. Bell’s archaeology friends were unimpressed – why had he included a Medieval ringwork on an alleged Prehistoric Site Alignment? Years later, in 1997, when the Association of Certified Field Archaeologists were doing an archaeological survey of Cathkin Braes Country Park, an aerial photograph of the ringwork showed an additional smaller enclosure joining onto the north-east side of the ringwork. (‘This is almost certainly a prehistoric burial’ … p16 Glasgow Archaeological Bulletin, No. 36)
‘One alignment I traced in Paisley led to the Watermill Hotel, some 200m south of Paisley Abbey. I was disappointed the line didn’t go to the Abbey, which I thought was the oldest site in Paisley; but when I looked into the history of the town, I found to my amazement that the river bank at Seedhill Craigs opposite the Watermill was the site of St. Mirin’s original settlement, destined to be abandoned for the Abbey site when the community grew too large for it. Seedhill Craigs is where the White Cart Water becomes tidal and the site is believed to have been occupied in prehistoric times, long before St. Mirin’s arrival.’ (see M. McCarthy, 1969. A Social Geography of Paisley.)
‘The most important site on the PSA above is the Roman Fort at Old Kilpatrick. Once the terminal at the western end of the Antonine Wall, the fort is now buried under the houses of Gavinburn Gardens, near the Forth and Clyde Canal. There is nothing to see there, but I liked the site, the view down the Clyde, and in fact the whole area. Was it possible that a prehistoric site lay underneath?’
‘Nonsense,’ said the Romanist scholar I asked about this.‘The Romans chose sites to suit their defensive technique, they did not adapt their technique to suit available sites.’
‘I was agreeably surprised to find out later on, that Bronze Age cists (stone coffins) had been discovered inside the fort in 1923 and 1924.’ (See Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society viii, 1933 pp 55-61).
‘Site by site, line by line, I pieced together a cat’s cradle of alignments that could be interpreted as either total delusion on my part, or the abandoned plan of an ancient trans-Clyde communications network.’
Bell plotted every possible alignment he could find within the city limits. He freely admitted that some alignments could be coincidental, some might be longer than he thought, and others may still lie undetected in the same area. Nevertheless, without any serious selection process involved, the PSAs run straight as a rifle shot through the oldest man-made structures in Glasgow, Bothwell, Carmunock, Crookston, Castlemilk, Dumbarton, Drumchapel, Easterhouse, East Kilbride, Govan, Hamilton, Inchinnan, Kilsyth, Old Kilpatrick, Paisley, Renfrew and Rutherglen. No matter whether it is a castle, church, burial site or habitation, the oldest known site in each of these 17 communities has an alignment passing through it. No amount of ‘observer bias’ could conjure up this result artificially. This is clear statistical proof that the present layout of Glasgow evolved from a long-forgotten framework of Prehistoric Site Alignments which are accurately sighted onto the surrounding hills.
‘The four city networks interlock perfectly, forming a larger system which I call the Glasgow Network of Aligned Sites. The source of this system seems to be a triangle with three of the four sightline centres on a single line at the base. I call this feature the Glasgow Triangle.
By walking the hills, looking at the sites from different viewpoints and angles, I found a possible sequence for the development of the triangle. First, a PSA surveyed from Duncolm to Tinto as a communication line up the Clyde Valley. On the way it would pass through the Necropolis (1) and Carmyle (2). Next, a shorter Camphill (3) Necropolis (1) line, possibly extended later because it was a suitable direction indicator to the tidal waters of the River Forth. (These two PSAs cross at the Necropolis, which ties in with the rather vague references in old books about travellers in earliest Glasgow walking along the west bank of the Molendinar Burn to join a road which ran along the ridge where the Cathedral now stands.) Third, a PSA surveyed from Crookston (4) to Duncolm. This would not have been a part of the triangle, but it would have established Crookston as a sightline centre. The line could later have been extended in the opposite direction to the De’il’s Plantin and Dumdruff. (The next day or 500 years later, who knows?) For most of its length, this alignment runs within a mile or two of the River Cart. A Walls Hill/ Crookston/ Necropolis PSA and another from Crookston to Carmyle complete the triangle.’
‘One Medievalist who taught and specialised in ringworks, mottes, and early medieval castles in Scotland, thought I had been too selective in the choice of sites for my maps. Why, for instance, were the ringworks at Camphill and Crookston represented, while other ringworks were conveniently left out?
‘I explained that the only other ringwork I knew was the one near the pond in Pollok Country Park, and as it was nearly 200m from the nearest PSA I naturally did not include it in my maps.
‘But it’s not fair if you include the ringworks that suit your purpose and leave out the ones that don’t suit your purpose,’ he replied. ‘It gives a false picture.‘
‘He then went on to tell me about two other ringworks I was unaware of: one a semi-circular part-obliterated bank of earth, also in Pollok Country Park (see D & E 1973), the other, described in the Paisley Burgh Survey of 1980 as ‘a postulated Norman ringwork of earth and timber’ was on private land. So in the interests of equal rights for ringworks, I went out for a look at both sites.
‘The one at NS 555624, 320m S of the ringwork near the pond in the Park, was in poor condition. It is known as Pollok Park ringwork but there are two ringworks in the park, so to avoid confusion it is marked on my map as Burrell ringwork because of its proximity to the Burrell Collection.
‘The other ringwork had been landscaped into a rockery at a house in the Castlehead district of Paisley.
‘To my amazement, I found that both these ringworks are in perfect alignment with Camphill and Crookston, on the baseline of the Glasgow Triangle.’
‘It would be quite ridiculous to suggest that these four ringworks, Castlehead, Crookston, Burrell and Camphill appear on a six mile stretch of PSA by chance. This discovery has brought new problems of interpretation in its wake – does it mean that ringworks were being positioned on Prehistoric Site Alignments up till the 12th Century or does it mean that the sites they were built on are far older than we think they are?
‘And what about the ringwork near the pond in Pollok Country Park – the one that wasn’t on my line? A rare stroke of good fortune gave me some information on this one. In the course of collecting facts for an essay I signed out four books at the Mitchell Library. For some unaccountable reason the girl brought me five. The fifth one was called Mary Queen of Scots at Langside, written by one Ludovic MacLellan Mann in 1918.
‘On page 100 of this book, on the subject of early dwellings, Mr. Mann had this to say ‘… An underground galleried and alcoved house was brought to light at Crossmyloof. It was situated precisely on a line leading from the prehistoric, circular, defensive earthwork in Queen’s Park to a similar, though smaller, earthwork in Pollok Wood.‘
‘The underground house was apparently discovered when the properties near the corner of Minard Rd. and Waverley St. were erected (see Places and Characters of Old Glasgow, p72). A line drawn from Camphill to the ringwork by the pond goes straight through that very corner. The strange thing about this alignment is that MacLellan Mann recorded it in 1918 – seven years before Watkins wrote The Old Straight Track …
‘Ludovic MacLellan Mann – I knew the name. There was a photograph of him at the Cochno stone in R.W.B. Morris’ book The Prehistoric Rock of Southern Scotland. I wondered if he too had been an alignment researcher. Back to the libraries I went, and looked up anything Mann had ever written. In one book, Earliest Glasgow, a Temple of the Moon, I found an interesting section titled ‘Ancient Land Surveys’ on p10. It read as follows:
‘The Neolithic philosopher and astronomer laid out the Glasgow area on a plan similar to a clock-face and like a gigantic spider’s web, but rigorously geometrical. Its radii, usually set on a nineteenth divisional system (sub-divided at times into 38ths and 76ths) dictated the positions, and ran through loci of prehistoric importance.
These lines were counted anti-clockwise beginning at the south-going radius which corresponds with the position of the clock-hand which indicates six o’clock on a modern timepiece.
The 31st radius (on a dial of 38 radii) proceeds from the Cathedral to St. Enoch’s Square and passes in direct line through the centres of several sacred areas, usually made rectangular, and set cardinally and equidistantly. This radial line is one of many, but may be here specially noted as it recalls the story of St. Enoch, a Glasgow notability….
Her sanctuary with its curative well was situated in the present day St. Enoch Square, which has always been communal property. Through it ran a little stream called the Glasgow Burn, and the spot was chosen because it lay at a vital locus within the spider’s web.
At this place, and drawn up into the little burn, was found a dug-out canoe overwhelmed with flood silt. The boat contained among other relics a Neolithic or Bronze Age polished green-stone axe-blade. It lies within the period 6000 BC to 1000 BC.’
‘This was heady stuff. I knew about the canoe and stone axe, but the Cathedral/St. Enoch alignment was new to me. It interested me because at one time I had thought the Cathedral was a sightline centre. That was before I discovered that the lines going through it were actually bound for the hilltop cemetery of the Necropolis.
‘The equal divisions of the landscape seemed far fetched and it didn’t seem likely that an alignment would stop at St. Enoch Square like a No. 5 bus either. Mine always led to high ground and hilltops. Was it possible MacLellan Mann’s line was longer than he thought it was?
‘On Bartholemew’s 1:20,000 scale City of Glasgow Streetplan, a map so accurate that the Ordnance Survey grid is incorporated, I held a piece of thread straight, so that it ran from Crookston Castle ringwork to the Necropolis. It passed through the northern side of the subway station and narrowly missed Glasgow Cathedral on the way. It was so close a miss that any sites on the southern part of MacLellan Mann’s line from St. Enoch Square to the Cathedral would be incorporated into my own line – the much longer Necropolis/Crookston/Walls Hill PSA – the NW side of the Glasgow Triangle.
‘Until 1789, the ruins of Bishops Castle stood just outside the Cathedral. Recent excavations by the Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust have shown that the earliest structure on this site was an earth and timber ringwork, dated by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) to 1191 CE.
‘So as well as the four ringworks along the Glasgow Triangle baseline, there is one that was situated very close to the apex (in the region of the Cathedral and Necropolis photograph on the first page of this web site).’
‘Back in my schooldays, one of my most treasured possessions was an old copy of Theodore C.F. Brotchie’s ‘Some Sylvan Scenes Near Glasgow’ (1910 edition). Because of this, I knew my way round dozens of historical sites in the Glasgow area that most archaeologists had never heard of. Before Brotchie’s day, Hugh MacDonald had gone over much of the same ground, but his books were not illustrated, and Brotchie’s were. I read both as a schoolboy, but it was really the magic old Brotchie drawings that worked their spell and started me rambling.’ (Click here for a short profile on Brotchie)
‘My mental picture of the Clyde Valley landscape had changed considerably since I started archaeo-orienteering. The whole of the Glasgow area had become a giant game of snakes and ladders in which I was the only player. Rivers served as snakes, and PSAs served as ladders; it all made perfect sense. Once I got to know the hills and rivers I understood how people like the Australian aborigines could memorise routes through vast stretches of land associated with the Dreamtime wanderings of their ancestors … When the shape of hills and landscape features became familiar to me from different angles I, too, could go walkabout.
‘In field tests at Camphill, Crookston, the Necropolis and Cathkin Braes, I could indicate the precise direction of dozens of sites that I could not actually see. Surprisingly, some of the skyline markers I used for this purpose – from Camphill for instance, could also be used to indicate different sites from Crookston and the Necropolis.
‘This marvellous network lay far beyond my own powers of invention. I began to wonder if it had been designed for settlers, rather than travellers. It seemed to have come into being at a time when improved farming methods led to an increase in population, so one of its functions could have been to space settlements out and avoid too many people living off the land in any one area.’ (Bell, Glasgow’s Secret Geometry, 1993).
It is unlikely that the PSAs on this map were all in use at one time. Re-occupation of popular sites after periods of abandonment seems more likely. No one person or ‘surveyor class’ would have designed the network; it most likely evolved through widespread use over the centuries, then fell out of fashion when hilltop sites were abandoned.
PSAs were surveyed as single lines, not geometric figures or patterns. Triangles are the inevitable result of a group of single lines crossing and recrossing each other. The Glasgow Triangle is a convenient geographical term – it would not have been known as a triangle in prehistoric times.
It is difficult to assess the width of a PSA. It can be as narrow as a path between two stones,or as broad as the line of sight to a distant hillfort. It all depends on the viewpoint of the observer.
At present, the only prehistoric alignment in Scotland accepted as having been deliberately made is the linear cemetery, an alignment of chambered tombs and cairns in the Kilmartin Valley, Argyllshire. If you transfer PSAs onto the Ordnance Survey map you will find that the first Glaswegians worked to just as close a tolerance, but over far greater distances.
PSAs were a means of finding your bearings by using fixed skyline markers. They were not tracks – there was no need to follow them all the way up to the hilltops. Those who use stars for navigation don’t have to fly to the heavens to get where they are going either – it’s all the same principle.
The reason PSA’s are not yet archaeologically acceptable is because orientations between two features known to be unrelated are considered unproven. This is quite logical, but it is also logical to suggest the possibility that the custom of using alignments as landmark systems, territorial boundaries or anything else could have long outlasted the style and function of structures built along its length. If a single site can have multi-phase multi-period use, so can a PSA. Mainstream archaeology has no record of the Glasgow Network whatsoever. It’s a fascinating new addition to our heritage and it’s all out there awaiting your interpretation.