When archaeologists announced the discovery of an "amazing" 4500-year-old stone circle on an Aberdeenshire farm in December they admitted it was odd that it had remained hidden for so long.

With its diminutive circumference and smallish stones, experts said the Neolithic monument in the parish of Leochel-Cushnie was unusual, but hoped it might change their understanding of prehistoric building.

Sadly such optimism was not to be realised. This week a farmer who had once owned the land got in touch to say he had built it himself in the 1990s, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Neil Ackerman, historic environment record assistant at Aberdeenshire Council, said: "These types of monument are notoriously difficult to date. It is obviously disappointing to learn of this development, but it also adds an interesting element to its story.

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"That it so closely copies a regional monument type shows the local knowledge, appreciation and engagement with the archaeology of the region by the local community.

"I hope the stones continue to be used and enjoyed - while not ancient, it is still in a fantastic location and makes for a great feature in the landscape."

The site, which sits on land near Holmhead Farm near Aboyne, was reported to Aberdeenshire Council's archaeology service late last year by Fiona Bain, whose family have farmed in the area for generations.

When archaeologists visited the site they confirmed it was a recumbent stone circle which are common throughout the north east of Scotland.

Recumbent stone circles which date back 3500-4500 years are defined by a large horizontal stone - the recumbent - flanked by two upright stones, which are usually placed to the south-east to south-west of the circle.

The circle had 10 stones - an average number for such monuments - yet was 10 foot smaller in diameter than any other found to date and was in surprisingly good condition.

The anomalies should have set alarm bells ringing but Adam Welfare, of Historic Environment Scotland, spotted a rich cover of lichen on the rocks which he said were "indicative of the ring's antiquity".

Lichen grow very slowly and certain types can be used as a marker of age. But although the stones may have been old, the circle itself was not, having been built as a folly by the previous landowner within the last 30 years.

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However Kevin Bain, whose wife Fiona first reported the stone circle to the local authority, said he found it hard to believe it was a replica that had been built recently.

"I don't know if I believe this," he said. "If it had been built then we would probably have known about it.

"To be honest, I've had nothing but people coming through my ground, driving up my drive looking for it. Maybe they'll now want to come and see something that never was."

Archaeologists said they would keep the fake circle on record to avoid any misidentification in the future.

Ackerman added: "We always welcome reports of any new, modern reconstructions of ancient monuments, especially those built with the skill of this stone circle and that reference existing monument types."