Ancient Monuments

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Grunna Water, house 480m north west of Houlland

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2761 / 60°16'34"N

Longitude: -1.1741 / 1°10'26"W

OS Eastings: 445782

OS Northings: 1154944

OS Grid: HU457549

Mapcode National: GBR R1GL.0MT

Mapcode Global: XHF9C.4Z21

Entry Name: Grunna Water, house 480m NW of Houlland

Scheduled Date: 30 December 1974

Last Amended: 9 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3603

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. It is visible as an oval low turf-covered bank and a setting of large irregular boulders enclosing an oval hollow, measuring approximately 7m E-W by 5m N-S. Beyond the house remains there are traces of cultivation and low turf banks forming a sub-oval enclosure. The monument is late Neolithic or Bronze Age in date, probably from some time between 3000 and 1000 BC. It is located on elevated ground around 40m above sea level on semi-improved grassland overlooking Grunna Water to the east. The monument was originally scheduled in 1974 but the area was inadequate and the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is an irregular 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 which falls within 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 signs of disturbance by burrowing animals in the recent past. A series of large, irregular shaped boulders, some of which are earth-fast, encloses an oval hollow. This is surrounded by a low turf bank. There are suggestions of a possible entrance on the western edge. The house appears to lie within a sub-oval enclosure formed of low turf banks and there are traces of cultivation within the enclosure. There are still visible traces of the the transects dug across the homestead in 1991 as part of the South Nesting Palaeolandscape project. These revealed evidence of prehistoric occupation and agricultural activity.

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 cultivation remains 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 to second 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. It is located on elevated land, overlooking Grunna Water to the east and South Nesting Bay further to the northeast. There are also a number of other broadly contemporary prehistoric sites in the area. Of particular interest is the burnt mound which lies just 70m to the southeast, while further afield are the remains of a homestead approximately 790m to the southeast, and the standing stone at Skellister around 600m to the northeast. 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 the site fitted into a landscape that is 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, 367-8.

Dockrill, S J et al. 1991 'The South Nesting palaeolandscape project, Shetland Islands', Univ Bradford Archaeol Sci Annu Rep 5th annual report, 19.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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