Ancient War Fires

Could Forts of Melted Stone Hold Lost Secrets of Ancient Nuclear Technology?

The Cold War is long gone, as is the Soviet Union, but as numerous post-9/11 events have demonstrated, the world is still a dangerous place. In fact, it’s very dangerous and it’s getting even more dangerous by the day. In 2015 alone, we saw Chinese hackers infiltrate and steal files on millions of Americans. The Russians began to flex their muscles even more. There was talk of the military minions of Vladimir Putin placing new, atomic arsenals in the heart of Europe, something which, if it happens, may force us to do likewise as a vital countermeasure. North Korea continued to be a big problem on the nuclear front, as did Iran. A Russian passenger plane, en route to Egypt, was blasted out of the sky, killing everyone onboard. November 2015 saw a shocking terrorist attack in Paris, France, as well as threats against Brussels, Belgium. And on top of that, and also in the same month, the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter plane, something which provoked very worried words that a Russian-NATO confrontation might well be almost inevitable. In December, a pair of terrorists went on a rampage in California and, as you know, in 2016, there has been even more.

As a result of all these combined and worrying issues, dark murmurings suggest that the danger of all-out, worldwide, atomic war—a threat which subsided, to the relief of everyone, in the 1980s and 1990s, is about to rise, once again—this time, to stratospheric proportions, and maybe even beyond. Could the unthinkable be just around the corner? Are we talking about World War Three, and is there no way back from the brink? Could the end of the world as we know it be approaching? Perhaps. But, let’s hope not.

Are we facing our own extermination and becoming the latest victims in a long line of Armageddon-style events—ones in which ancient civilizations and cultures were destroyed, and after which processes of recovery were many millennia long? Is it possible that our civilization is, in reality, just the latest in a long line, one of many? Did previous cultures blossom, develop and thrive, only to be destroyed by something akin to the very nuclear technology that now threatens our entire society today? Could that technology have been created and unleashed by hostile extraterrestrials, with very little care, regard, or thought for the poor inhabitants of Earth? Even more incredible, could some of that very same technology have been shared with certain ancient, elite humans? Might we, then, be talking about atomic confrontations involving aliens and humans?

Quite reasonably, the skeptic might ask: where is the evidence for such a thing? The answer for many is shockingly simple. For them, the evidence is everywhere. It’s a case of knowing where to look for it that counts. But, how we interpret that same evidence is important, too.

What we see is a dark and disturbing story that takes us into the distant past, into the worlds of forgotten lands, of unknown people, and of long-dead civilizations largely relegated to the domains of folklore and legend. Time and time again, it appears, catastrophic events of an atomic nature may have decimated major portions of the planet, eradicating entire cultures, and killing people on scales we can scarcely begin to imagine or comprehend.

Atomic warfare in the past, however, appears to have been very different from what we would likely see today. God forbid it ever happens, but if a Third World War does erupt, it may be the transformation of some localized confrontation—perhaps on the border of South and North Korea, or in the disputed waters off the coast of China—to an all-out atomic exchange between the West, China, and Russia. In mere hours, our civilization could be obliterated. Forever. There would be no going back. And there would hardly be any going forward either. The planet would suffer unimaginable damage to its ecosystem and atmosphere. For the few bands of survivors, it would be grim indeed—and not just for decades, maybe for centuries, maybe millennia. On a smaller scale, however, is a related situation that may have occurred long ago.

Most, if not all, of the available data that points in the direction of ancient atomic exchanges ages ago suggests, not worldwide wars, but localized confrontations—possibly involving the equivalent of what today are known as “tactical” atomic weapons. Of course, for the people directly caught up in attacks, the end result would have been the same. The big difference, however, is that while the ancient wars may have caused major damage to both Earth and its people, we’re not talking about worldwide, near annihilation. “Localized destruction” would be a better and more accurate term.

It’s one thing to discuss and dissect the matter of ancient atomic strikes in the likes of Libya, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq; it is, however, quite another thing to suggest that something very similar may have occurred in the United Kingdom. Yet, when we go looking, we find something intriguing and notable—relevant, too. Welcome to the strange world of what are known as vitrified forts. Although vitrified forts are largely found in Scotland, a few have been identified in the north of England and in Ireland, too. And it’s not just the U.K. that can boast of being home to such curious creations. Although certainly far less in number outside of Scotland, they can also be found in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Hungary. But, given the fact that the vast majority—almost six dozen, in total—of vitrified forts can be found in Scotland, it’s to this ancient land we turn our specific attentions.

We start with the most important question of all: what, exactly, are Scotland’s vitrified forts? As their name strongly suggests, they were strategic facilities constructed to counter opposing forces, tribes, and invading warriors—and typically during the Iron Age and in the medieval era, with the earliest such constructions dating back to around 700 BC. They were formidable structures of significant diameters and heights. Among the most impressive examples are Tap o’ Noth; Craig Phadriag; the Torr at Shielfoot; Knockfarrel, Strathpeffer; Ord Hill, Inverness; and the Mote of Mark.

Many of the Scottish forts are located on hilltops, on mountains, and on high summits—thus having provided their creators with panoramic views of the surrounding, wild countryside, and, of course, of any potentially hostile bands that might have wished to claim the land for themselves. In that sense, there is nothing strange, at all, about the existence of the forts: they were all about warfare, protection, defense, and strategy, as one might guess. Rather, the mystery surrounds their physical conditions.

What makes vitrified forts so unique and unusual is their complete and utter lack of any kind of mortar, lime, or cement which one would expect to see in the building of ancient structures, particularly those that were intended to be sturdy and strong enough to withstand violent and concerted attack. Instead, what we have are thousands upon thousands of carefully placed stones that were fused together by incredible temperatures. Some of the stones show clear evidence of bubbling, and even of dripping—two things that suggest in some odd fashion that the forts were exposed to incredible temperatures, whether at their time of creation or at the height of battle. Even within the domain of mainstream science, the consensus is that for the stones to be affected in the ways they were, we would have to be talking about temperatures of—at the absolute very least—1,100°C. This raises important questions: was the vitrifying process undertaken to help strengthen and fortify the constructions? Or, was some form of ancient, high-tech weapon—perhaps of alien origins—used against the builders of the forts, in an attempt to melt them to the ground? And, if so, what was that weaponry? Might the effects of small, tactical atomic weapons, directed at the forts, have been the cause of the mystery that still perplexes us to this very day? These are extraordinary questions that provoke extraordinary answers.

It’s hardly surprising that when, in the 1700s, research into Scotland’s vitrified forts began, the initial research focused on the possibility that the tribes-people of the eras and areas in question built the forts on top of long-dead—or, at least, long-dormant—volcanoes. So the line of thinking went, the violent and massive eruptions of the volcanoes spewed forth endless amounts of scalding hot rocks that were propelled high into the sky, and that immediately thereafter fell to earth in vitrified, glassy form.

As a result, the people who gravitated to the area centuries later found themselves surrounded by tens of thousands of rocks. So, they decided to do something with them: namely, construct what are today termed vitrified forts. The problem with this admittedly engaging and well-thought-out scenario is that there is a total lack of evidence of the kind of volcanic activity one would expect to see—and that one would definitely require—to achieve such an outcome.

A second theory has been offered—one which suggests the rock was vitrified to create a binding that would ensure a strong and sturdy structure. Ironically, however, the process of vitrifying actually has the polar opposite effect: it weakens the stones. And there are two additional issues that convincingly demonstrate we’re not talking about something akin to mortar or cement being at the heart of the enigma.

Firstly, the vitrifying is not consistent in nature and appearance. Indeed, while some of the stones are tightly fused together, others are anything but. Rather, they have only been mildly affected by the heat. Oddly, on some of the forts, entire walls are vitrified, as if something were directed specifically against the walls—but not to other parts of the structure. If binding were the root goal of it all, one would expect the vitrifying to be uniform. That it is not, however, has given rise to the intriguing theory that we’re talking about incredible technology targeting the walls—possibly to ensure destruction but, in the process, provoking vitrified states.

Secondly, to create massive amounts of mortar-like substances would require the very nearby presence of huge crucibles and blast furnaces in which the same substances could have been created. There is no evidence whatsoever of such crucibles or furnaces anywhere near any of the Scottish forts—and that goes for the ones in other parts of Europe, too.

The first, real, meaningful attempt to try and rationalize how the vitrified forts came to exist occurred in March of 1934. The brains behind the operation were Vere Gordon Childe and Wallace Thorneycroft. The former was a prolific Australian author and an archaeologist. He immigrated to the U.K. in 1921, and spent most of his life working at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, and at the London-based Institute of Archaeology. As for the latter, Thorneycroft was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. They set about trying to replicate the process that led to the vitrified stones of Scotland coming into being.

The duo chose Plean Colliery in Stirlingshire, Scotland, as their base of operations. They carefully constructed a series of walls that were comprised of fire-clay bricks, timber, and basalt rubble. They then proceeded to place no less than four tons of brushwood, and extra timber, against the walls and set them on fire. The 1966–’67 edition of The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland provides an excellent, concise overview of the outcome:

“The experimental wall was six feet wide and high, with horizontal timbers interlaced with stone slabs. After ignition through brushwood fires around the wall face, the wall began to burn and after three hours it collapsed. The core of basalt rubble became red hot, probably reaching 800 to 1200°C, and after excavation the bottom part of the rubble was found to be vitrified, with rock droplets and casts of timber preserved. The experiment proved that a timber-laced wall of this character could become vitrified through fire, but the explanation of the reasons for such widespread treatment of these Iron Age forts remains uncertain.”

A further, near-identical experiment, undertaken three years later by Childe and Thorneycroft, provided similar results. The problem, however, was that while the pair demonstrated that the vitrifying of stones was indeed achievable using simple tools, it didn’t answer the question of why the process was deemed to be so important—or even what the purpose was. While there was speculation on the possibility of invading hordes vitrifying the stones—in the same fashion as Childe and Thorneycroft—as a means to invade the forts and take them from their creators, there is not a shred of evidence that violent confrontations occurred or that any of the forts fell into the hands of opposing tribes. Nor could Childe and Thorneycroft explain why so many other Scottish forts completely lacked any and all signs of vitrified stones.

There are other issues, too. One being that for the combined wood and stone to reach the kinds of temperatures to allow for the vitrifying process to occur, the timescale was hardly what one would call seconds or minutes. It was a period of several hours. One would imagine that with such a slow process, those defending the forts would have had ample time to put the fires out. Then there is the matter of the wood-to-stone ratio, which the two men employed. Their emphasis was on the use of wood, with the fire-clay bricks playing a secondary role. However, even among those who prefer a conventional, down-to-earth, explanation for the vitrified forts, the most popular theories suggest wood played a minimal role—rather than a leading one.


An edited excerpt from the author’s new book Weapons of the Gods: How Ancient Alien Civilizations Almost Destroyed the Earth (New Page Books, 2016). For more information, his web site is:

By Nick Redfern