Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Hamar Knowe, house 740m north east of Clymlea

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.292 / 60°17'31"N

Longitude: -1.1391 / 1°8'20"W

OS Eastings: 447694

OS Northings: 1156739

OS Grid: HU476567

Mapcode National: GBR R1JJ.QPK

Mapcode Global: XHF9C.LK5V

Entry Name: Hamar Knowe, house 740m NE of Clymlea

Scheduled Date: 24 December 1974

Last Amended: 9 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3590

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric house, which is visible as low turf-covered stone walls forming two oval compartments. The structure measures approximately 8m NW-SE by 6m transversely. There are traces of an enclosing bank on the NE edge. It is late Neolithic or Bronze Age, dating to some time between 3000 and 1000 BC. It is located on elevated ground around 20m above sea level on semi-improved grassland. It lies on the coastal strip overlooking South Nesting Bay to the east. The monument was originally scheduled in 1974 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is oval on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. It excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence situated between the monument and the road, which runs across the NW edge of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is in good overall condition, although there are localised areas of erosion and disturbance caused by burrowing animals. The interior of this prehistoric house is filled with irregular shaped boulders, but traces of facing stones can be seen, forming the two oval compartments. The structure is surrounded by a low peat bank, which survives best along the northern and eastern edges. The house is situated on elevated land with its entrance in the SE, overlooking South Nesting Bay to the east. Beyond the house there are traces of associated field systems and clearance cairns.

The site is likely to contain important buried deposits, including artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental evidence. Examination of the building foundations can provide detailed information about the form and construction of prehistoric houses in Shetland, and buried features in the interior can contribute to our understanding of how houses were used and organised, and how this might change over time. Buried artefacts, ecofacts and soils can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, and provide insight into trade and exchange and the nature of the agricultural economy. Archaeological investigation at similar sites has yielded high quality artefactual and ecofactual material, which can help us to build up a much fuller picture of prehistoric domestic life. There is also the potential to compare the building with the enclosing bank and clearance cairns to determine whether these features are contemporary, and to ascertain how the inhabitants managed the landscape in the immediate vicinity of the house. There is particular potential to determine how the field system developed, whether the soils were improved, and if so how and at what dates.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of a number of broadly similar prehistoric houses that characterise early settlement and the development of agriculture in the third millennium BC in Shetland. It is part of a relatively rare and geographically restricted group, which gives us a more balanced view of prehistoric life, when compared with the more common and widespread burial and ceremonial monuments of the later Neolithic elsewhere in Scotland.

The monument's situation within the landscape further enhances its importance. There is a foci of broadly contemporary monuments relating to prehistoric settlement and agricultural activity situated along the coastline of South Nesting Bay. A similar prehistoric house is situated just 135m to the SW and the two are intervisible with each other. Beyond this is another house and a burnt mound, 325m and 365m to the SW respectively. This monument is an important element of a much wider relict landscape and it testifies to early human efforts to exploit land and natural resources for agricultural production. Comparison of this site with the other prehistoric domestic remains in the area would help us to develop a much better understanding of prehistoric domestic life and landuse.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular, the nature of prehistoric settlement, agriculture and landuse in Shetland. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses and changes in the nature of settlement over time. There is also excellent potential to study how this site fitted into a landscape rich in prehistoric remains. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric domestic architecture and settlement, both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Calder, C S T, 1958 'Stone Age house-sites in Shetland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 89, 367.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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