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Prehistoric linear boundary on Puffin Island

A Scheduled Monument in Tresco, Isles of Scilly

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Latitude: 49.9395 / 49°56'22"N

Longitude: -6.3478 / 6°20'51"W

OS Eastings: 88154.829145

OS Northings: 13431.344364

OS Grid: SV881134

Mapcode National: GBR BXQV.76L

Mapcode Global: VGYBX.XSK8

Entry Name: Prehistoric linear boundary on Puffin Island

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010175

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15398

County: Isles of Scilly

Civil Parish: Tresco

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Isles of Scilly

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a prehistoric linear boundary situated on the north west
part of the central ridge across the small uninhabited Puffin Island, between
Samson, Bryher and Tresco in the north western Isles of Scilly.
The linear boundary survives as a wall up to 0.75m high and 1m wide, composed
of contiguous edge-set slabs and boulders, up to 1.5m long and largely
turf-covered. The wall extends for 18m north west-south east along the ridge
linking the north west and central outcrops of the raised spine of the island.
At its south east end, beside the rock face of the central outcrop, the wall
curves round to the north east, extending for a further 8m down the upper
north east slope of the island.
Although this linear boundary is now located on a small island, the physical
environment in which it was built was a small knoll in a broad basin on the
north west part of a single large island that formerly united much of the area
of the present Isles of Scilly archipelago from St Mary's northwards. The
gradual sinking of the land since this boundary was constructed has led to the
fragmentation of that island into the present scatter of large and small
islands and rocks. Broadly contemporary field systems survive along the edges
of the basin, on the present coastal margin of Samson, from 420m to the
south west, and on the intertidal Samson Flats, from 430m to the SSW. Prior to
the submergence of the intervening land, this linear boundary is considered to
have formed an element of that formerly more extensive field system. Rising
from the south western side of the basin and within sight of this monument,
the spine of North Hill, Samson, contains a linear cemetery of large, broadly
contemporary funerary cairns, from 460m to the WSW.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west
England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains
from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the
islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English
Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many
unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social
development of early communities.
Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the
islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its
exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change
against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of
archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands'
The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually
expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post-
medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic
location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works
reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the
mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post-
medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard
for the nation's shipping in the western approaches.
The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has
long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of
documentation, including several recent surveys.
The early linear boundaries on the Isles of Scilly were constructed from the
Bronze Age to the early medieval period (c.2000 BC-AD 1066): closer dating
within that period may be provided by their visible relationships to other
classes of monument, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea
level. They consist of stone walls, up to 3m wide and 1.1m high but usually
much slighter, and are formed of heaped rubble, often incorporating edge- or
end-set slabs called orthostats.
Linear boundaries served a variety of functions. These included separating
land regularly cultivated from that less intensively used, separating land
held by different social groups, or delineating areas set aside for
ceremonial, religious and funerary activities. Linear boundaries are often
associated with other forms of contemporary field system. The Isles of Scilly
contain examples of an associaton, rarely encountered elswhere, whereby
certain linear boundaries directly link several cairns, entrance graves and
cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments.
Linear boundaries along the coastal margin of the islands are often
indistinguishable from the truncated upper walls of early field systems whose
remaining extent has been destroyed by the rising sea level. Linear boundaries
form a substantial part of the evidence of early field systems recorded on the
Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into the physical and
social organisation of past landscapes and form an important element in the
existing landscape. Even where truncated by the rising sea level, their
surviving lengths provide important evidence for the wider contemporary
context within which other nationally important monuments at higher altitudes
were constructed. A substantial proportion of surviving examples are
considered worthy of protection.

This linear boundary on Puffin Island has survived well and shows the
importance of the natural topography in influencing prehistoric land
divisions. The monument constitutes valuable evidence for the nature and
former extent of prehistoric land division in the pre-submergence landscape of
the Isles of Scilly, providing the broader context in which the nearby
prehistoric field systems and funerary cairns of Samson and the Samson Flats
were built and demonstrating well the nature and organisation of land use
among prehistoric communities.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7078, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069, 7076, 7642, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 81 NE
Source Date: 1980

Source: Historic England

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