Category: Standing with Stones

Standing Stones of Britain & Ireland in a feature length film

Do you love standing stones? This is the trailer for my film ‘Standing with Stones’.
The film has been around a little while now – but seeing as there’s more of you visiting my little site than usual at the moment, thought I’d take the opportunity to spread the word!

If you’ve ever dreamed of travelling through Great Britain & Ireland, visiting the fantastic monuments that our ancient ancestors left us, then you will love this feature length film.
Over two years in the making, Standing with Stones was made by just two men with great film making skills, a camper van and a passion for standing stones. The result is a remarkable feature length documentary film that take the viewer on a journey of discovery, uncovering the true extent and variety of megalithic Britain and Ireland.
How many British neolithic or bronze age sites can you name right now? Stonehenge, Avebury, the Rollrights?
In fact Britain has tens of thousands of stone circles, henges, barrows and dolmens, each with its own fascinating story. Whether you re familiar with most of them or have only a passing familiarity with a few, we made STANDING WITH STONES just for you.
Presented by naturalist and explorer Rupert Soskin, produced and directed by myself, it is a first-hand account of a journey taken through the British Isles and Ireland, starting at the tip of Cornwall and ending on the Scottish Isles. The film contains visits to over 100 Neolithic and Bronze age standing stones monuments.
Or, if you like, you can watch the first part of the film FREE!

Standing with Stones – Part 1: THE WEST COUNTRY & DARTMOOR from Michael Bott on Vimeo.

Standing with Stones

I have to plug my film from time to time … after all, it did take up two years of my life!

In 2005 my dear friend Rupert Soskin and I threw caution to the wind and embarked upon the production of an epic documentary film – a travelogue visiting the standing stones, stone circles and other ancient sites of Britain, Ireland and Scotland. It took two years and the result, of which we are very proud, is ‘Standing with Stones‘ and the trailer is above. There’s a dedicated website here where you can find out more.

Coal, carrots, lateral thinking & archaeology

While on the Scottish leg of filming Standing with Stones, Rupert and I came up with a little analogy which we hope illustrates the problems and dangers of interpretation when dealing with our ancient megalithic sites. Templewood – part of the Kilmartin Glen megalithic complex – seemed an ideal spot to slip it in. Hope it makes sense to you!

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Standing with Stones – RENT or BUY

I’m very pleased to announce that my film, Standing with Stones, is now available to rent as a streaming movie online or to buy as a complete download. You can even earn commission if you share the trailer and cause any sales!

In case you haven’t gathered, Standing with Stones is the film I made with my mate Rupert Soskin back in 2006/7. To quote my own blurb:
Over two years in the making, Standing with Stones was made by just two men – filmmakers with a passion for our Neolithic and Bronze Age heritage. The result is a beautiful film that takes the viewer on a journey of discovery, uncovering the true extent and variety of megalithic Britain and Ireland.
Well, that’s the elevator pitch. For the full story go to

Magic at Callanish

I want to share with you something that does not require any explanation. It’s just something that happened to Rupert and me when we were filming Standing with Stones that so perfectly conveys the extraordinary privilege it was to have enjoyed this journey. It only proves that however hard and unyielding the stones themselves are and however dry archaeological facts and figures seem, if you spend enough time with them they cannot fail to deliver anything but magic.
Stuck at Achnabreck
At the end of February 2007, Rupert and I were stuck in Argyll, camped up in a car park near the Achnabreck carved stones. I knew that sometime during the next few days we were due to arrive at Callanish and, of course, as it is well known as a lunar observatory, I had been praying that when we did get there we could get at least some shots under a clear sky with a bright moon.
Sometime around the 27th or 28th I remember looking up at the sky and seeing through a break in the clouds that the moon was waxing very nicely – all I had to do was keep my fingers crossed that our arrival would coincide with the full moon. How cool would that be. However, I knew from experience that it would be next to impossible to manage things to coincide like that. We still had footage to get at Kilmartin and we had no idea of when the rain was going to let up. Moreover,there was still a lot of driving to do and we had no idea how frequent the ferries were.
However, incredibly, we did arrive at Callanish on the night of the full moon. All we had to pray for now was clear sky.
We were well out of the tourist season, of course and the only indication that there was anyone else here was a little canvas shelter down in the corner of the field and we could see two other guys in it looking rather forelorn. We waved vaguely at them and they waved back. Rupert went off to investigate and I wander about in a trance looking for camera angles.
After a while Rupert comes up to me with a rather stupid grin on his face. He says:
“Mike. I’ve just been talking to those two guys. Do you know what the first thing they asked me was?”
“They asked me was if we were here for the Lunar Eclipse as well”.

The shadow of the Earth, from Callanish
March 3rd 2007 was the first Lunar Eclipse since 2004!
Over all the miles, the accidents, the turnarounds, the hold-ups the – all this time of just going with the flow and being content with what we were given – and we had been delivered to the greatest prehistoric lunar observatory of them all on this very night!
It sends shivers up my spine to think of it even now. In the moment it simply occurred as a miraculous blessing – we just couldn’t get a hold on it – we were speechless.
Rupert, Callanish and the Moon, 3/3/07
But just to underline that something was clearly meant to be, it turned out that the other two guys had the same names as us. We’ve given up trying to work that one out.
Well, the skies cleared, Callanish presented itself in it’s best light and we were treated to the most fantastic display of cosmic alignment in the most magical place imaginable to observe such a thing. We were up until about 4 in the morning in a state of pure awe and thankfulness for what we had been given. Amazingly, we even remembered to write some script and get some footage and we hope what is in the film conveys some of the wonder of that night.

The adventures of two men and a camper van

By Rupert Soskin
In Cornwall, filming the Ballowall Barrow
It was back in 1999 that I first approached Michael Bott with the idea of making a documentary series on little-known aspects of one of my other passions: Natural History. I was already familiar with Michael’s work. He had made a couple of films with my father, Henry Lincoln, and his impressive talent made the normally painstaking decision of who to approach, a complete no-brainer. Michael loved the idea but he very sensibly suggested that, as this was such a massive project, it would be more sensible to kick off with something else. Something we were both familiar with and could do more easily, to see how well we worked together. Little did we suspect, how an intended ‘interim’ project would become such a life-changing experience.
Michael has been enthralled by ancient sites since childhood, and for a number of years I had been leading trips and walks to ancient sites in Britain and abroad, so the decision was easy.
“Why don’t we make a pilot for a documentary about standing stones?” said Mike.
“Great idea.” I replied.
“Excellent” he said, “You write it then.”
Screen from the pilot film
And so a monster was spawned. As things progressed, Mike decided early on that we should aim the film towards short ten-minute programmes and if all went well, we could make an indefinite amount of these short films, working our way across the whole of the British Isles. I have walked over Dartmoor’s hills and vales more than any other part of Britain so rather than make life difficult, I stuck with what I knew best. I spent six months choosing locations, researching and writing until, in 2001, after Mike had turned my pages of writing into a format we could film, we were ready to hit the road.
That short film (which is included in the extras on the Standing with Stones DVD) once I had overcome the extraordinary sense of feeling a complete berk in front of the camera, was a joy to make, and thankfully, was very well received. However, what became increasingly obvious to us was that in taking it to broadcast companies like the BBC, with all the logistics of film crews traveling across Britain and ultimately losing control of schedules and the final edit, we risked ending up with a very different film from the one we wanted to make.
We took a break.
At the Pont-y-Pridd Rocking Stone, Wales. Where else?
For the next couple of years it all sat on a back burner until, with a healthy mix of bravery and madness, we made the insane decision to go it alone and produce a single film which covered as many sites as was feasible for a dvd. After another few months we had decided which sites to include and I had researched and written chunks of script. We acquired a camper van to act as mobile office, hotel and high vantage-point, stocked up on film, batteries and food and set off.
I had already decided that I would try to produce a book to accompany the film, so each trip involved carrying Mike’s film gear which included cameras, sound equipment, lights and walkie talkies so we could communicate between vehicles and across hillsides. Then there was all my own camera gear for shooting the pictures for the book.
Rupert writing on location
Taking Britain and Ireland in chunks, we worked in bursts of roughly a month at a time and, weather permitting, managed to sustain a high pressure approach to make the most of every minute. Up before sunrise most days in case the light was perfect for a dawn shoot, driving, walking or filming all day and researching and writing script in the evenings.
Most of the time our mass of equipment was fairly manageable. The only time it became a challenge was when we were filming the axe factory on Pike O’Stickle in the Lake District. The weather had been appalling for days so we waited… and we waited. We were traveling at such a ludicrous pace that we had no choice but to shoot in whatever conditions presented themselves at the time, especially as the filming had to take priority over the stills due to the complexities involved. Frustratingly, we arrived in the lakes at the time in 2007 when most of Britain was under water. Places that could have been stunningly beautiful were flat, grey and soaking wet. The Lake District could have been remapped to show new lakes which I am quite sure were fields when I last visited.
On the way up Pike O’ Stickle
However, we did have some time in hand so the lashing rain on day-one didn’t worry us unduly. We stayed in the bus, researching and writing. Day-two offered slightly less rain but heavier fog so, carrying all the gear and a stack of emergency stuff in case we were stuck up there overnight, we started the climb. Two hours later we were back in the bus: what had once been a gentle stream burbling its way down the mountainside had become a boiling white torrent of water. The risk to the equipment was too great, so day-two was abandoned.
Day-three was no better than day one but day-four we had to be somewhere else entirely. So whilst our original thoughts were to take a gorgeous colour-rich footage from high in the mountains, we had no options here, it had to be done in high winds, lashing rain and mists. Not even a dramatic sky to rescue the inevitable poor light. In the event however, it turned out to be one of the highlights for us. The swirling mists and buffeting winds did make filming a serious challenge, but so much more memorable than another sunny day in the hills.

Feeling at home at Skara Brae
It took two years to complete the film and left Mike and me with so many memories, (a number of them at my expense, which Mike delighted in putting in the out-takes). One occasion which stretched my outdoor skills to breaking point was the Barclodiad y Gawres stew-cooking scene. Me, in the dark, in a forest, stirring a brew over a camp fire. It was actually the last scene of the whole film to be shot, not least of all because Britain couldn’t have been wetter if the entire Atlantic ocean had been emptied over it! We had spent a weekend in Devon recording the last pieces of voice-over and grabbed our chance when, miraculously the rain stopped and the sun attempted a feeble push through the blankets of grey.
Rupert set himself on fire
Arriving at our chosen location I set about collecting firewood for our eerie night-time session. Everything was sopping wet, not a dry twig to be found amongst the puddles and sodden leaves.
“Don’t worry,” I tried to reassure Mike, “Ash, Pine and holly, that’ll do the job. Ash will burn come-what-may, resin in the pine will catch and holly leaves will always give a bright but brief flame.”
Well, there was holly, but no pine, nor any ash, so I collected the best of a soggy lot… where was Ray Mears when I needed him?! In the end I used my emergency stash of charcoal and fire tablets, but in sprinkling the last powdered crumbs of tablet onto the paltry fire, much to Mike’s amusement I nearly sent myself up in flames. Fortunately the holly did its job, as did Mike, and the final footage kept its secret… alas not so the out-takes.
Thanks Mike!
Filming over, Mike had nine months of editing ahead and it took another year before the book was complete. I could not have been happier that Thames & Hudson wanted to produce the book, and the icing on the cake was when Professor Tim Darvill agreed to check my text and write my foreword. The entire making of Standing with Stones, even though it was at times difficult and hand-to-mouth, turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. Almost every day, even in the harshest conditions, Mike and I would look at each other, grin like Cheshire cats and shout at each other, “We’re working!”

Very nice review of ‘Standing with Stones’ at

Michael Bott (director). 2009 (DVD). Standing With Stones – A Journey Through Megalithic Europe. Written and presented by Rupert Soskin, produced and directed by Michael Bott. 2 hours and 15 minutes, plus 1.5 hours of features. Illuminated Word, copyright 2007.
There are thousands upon thousands of megalithic monuments in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but to a large extent, the public really only knows one—Stonehenge. Yet much of the rural areas of the British Isles are crammed with these monuments that few know of and fewer still visit. The 2007 video Standing With Stones is an attempt to correct that lack of knowledge.
Standing With Stones: A Journey through Megalithic Europe
Standing With Stones is 2.5-hour-long video, written and presented by Rupert Soskin, and photographed and directed by Michael Bott. The two-man production team spent the greater part of eight years developing the project, which took them all over the British Isles, visiting dozens of monuments from Ballowall Barrow in Lands End, Cornwall to the Tomb of the Eagles in the Orkney Islands off Scotland’s northern shore.
Standing With Stones takes the viewer on a geographic tour of these amazing monuments. Seven chapters include the West Country, Southern England, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Northern England, Scotland and the Scottish Isles. Also included is an interview with Soskin and Bott, a blooper reel, deleted scenes, a slide show of the two-year process making the final film, and the TV pilot.

The video shows the incredible variation in form and meaning and date for the monuments, using primarily archaeological research as a basis for discussion. Soskin also brings in elements of folklore and history to discuss the complexity of the monuments and their meanings to people today and in the past.
Meaning and the Stones
What isn’t addressed are the various New Age theories which have evolved around many of the monuments. In an included interview featured on the DVD, Soskin explains that they avoided the “energetic, spiritual, and psychic” aspects of megalithic monuments because, however real such aspects may seem to someone who experiences them, they are highly individual experiences, and difficult to pin down. One person may say that they “know” a particular group of stones is a temple, another that the same group was the source of an important fertility ritual. Such experiences, reports Soskin, are simply too idiosyncratic to use. I don’t mind the omission.
What Standing With Stones does do is allow people to see and experience the great variety of constellations of stones, boulders, marked pathways, lines of sight, wooden poles, underground passageways, inscriptions, and astronomical alignments within their environments. Monuments are found in sheep pastures, on bleak moors, within small villages, divided by highways, on the tops of high tors and even in an athletic goods store in the center of London.
Elements of Standing With Stones
The photography is fabulous, and given that it was accomplished in all kinds of weather by a guy with a video camera (Sony HVR-Z1E), that is a bit of a miracle. In a spate of honesty, Soskin reports that he frequently found himself writing the text onsite, that he started out with a prepared text based on research, but discovered when they arrived at a site, the text wasn’t appropriate.
Maps are provided—but I would have liked to have the names of the sites spelled out during the video more consistently. Fortunately, Bott and Soskin have supplied a locations gallery on the Standing With Stones website which allows the interested user to find the right spelling to go seeking more information on sites like Callanish and Bryn Celli Du.
A musical track written by Michael Bott provides a range of textures to the images, a bit mystical and flute-y, with an underlying percussion.
Bottom Line
In the end, Standing With Stones is a personal journey to these monuments. Soskin and Bott are connected to the sites, determined to illustrate the immense variety of the different patterns and elements of the stone works. But, even though the video is far, far better than looking at still photos (I know, I looked up Callanish after viewing the program twice), it is clear that the real experience of visiting the sites is irreplaceable, and as good as it is, the video is only a patch on what it must be like to visit the monuments personally. The point of the video, I believe, is that we should try “standing with the stones”.
Suitable for just about anybody with an interest in prehistoric Europe, and particularly for those planning to spend time wandering around the British Isles, Standing With Stones might even be useful for academics. Don’t get me wrong—there are a couple of excellent websites that store extensive catalogs of images including panoramas of megalithic monuments—Stone Pages and leap to mind. But what Standing With Stones does is provide a generalist overview of the variation of different sites spread across the whole of Britain and Ireland. Oddly, because the sites are viewed in fairly rapid succession, the viewer ultimately begins to recognize not just the differences in the monuments, but their similarities. The experience includes resonance, in that inscriptions on stones in Ireland are reminiscent of those in England; patterns of concentric circles in the Orkneys are similar to those at Avebury. One might say the viewers come full circle.

Customers in the USA should buy the NTSC format release from AMAZON.COM or if in Canada from AMAZON.CA.

Ancient Temple Architects May Have Been Chasing a Buzz From Sound Waves

Emerging archaeology in a new study highlighted by the Old Temples Study Foundation suggests that sound and a desire to harness its effects may have been equally important as vision in the design of humankind’s earliest ancient temples and monumental buildings.
Sarasota, FL (PRWEB) December 1, 2009 — Six-thousand-year-old ancient temples are giving up acoustic clues for modern scientists. Intriguing new research on ancient temples in Malta and highlighted by the Old Temples Study Foundation is resonating through international archaeology and interdisciplinary classics research. Reaching beyond the scope of traditional archaeology, a multi-disciplinary approach has opened a new dimension for the study of the ancient world.

‘Standing with Stones’ accepted for 2010 Archeology Channel Film Festival

I am really pleased to announce that our film ‘Stranding with Stones’ (see trailer in sidebar right) has been chosen from 100 entrants to be one of 19 films to be screened in the 2010 Archaeology Channel International Film and Video Festival. I have been told by the event’s organiser, Richard Pettigrew, that this year’s submissions (from 32 countries) have been of particularly high standard which gives Rupert and I further reason to be proud to have our film accepted.
The Archaeology Channel is, if you like, the media shop window of the Archaeological Legacy Institute whose mission is:
…to develop ways to make archaeology more effective both in gathering important information about past human lifeways and in delivering that information to the public and the profession. A fundamental postulate is that archaeology has important messages to deliver accurately and completely to people worldwide about our origins and development as a species and that among these messages are those about mistakes we have made in the past and must not make in the future. In essence, ALI is devoted to archaeological research and its contributions to science and to humanity. In the furtherance of this mission, ALI, its associates, and its employees adhere to the Principles of Archaeological Ethics promulgated by the Society for American Archaeology.
The mission of the festival is:
To exhibit for our audience the wonderful diversity of human cultures past and present in the exploration of our place in history and in our world. To promote the genre and the makers of film and video productions about archaeology and indigenous peoples.
Amen to that, I say.
The festival consists of five days of juried films and videos on archaeological and indigenous topics and takes place over the evenings of the 18th to the 21st May and the morning and afternoon of Saturday 22nd with the awards reception taking place in the evening. The venue hosting the event is the Soreng Theater, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene, Oregon, USA.
Needless to say, we encourage anyone interested to make the effort to be there and we will be doing our own best to attend. However, the cost of the transatlantic flight and accommodation are a problem at the moment so any ideas about how that little caveat may be overcome would be most welcome. Anyway, fingers crossed – hopefully see you there!
I’ll keep you updated …


Michael Bott

Actor - represented by Tom Fitz at Simon & How Associates
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