Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Isleshaven, burnt mounds 500m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland Central, Shetland Islands

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 60.1123 / 60°6'44"N

Longitude: -1.315 / 1°18'54"W

OS Eastings: 438176

OS Northings: 1136607

OS Grid: HU381366

Mapcode National: GBR R230.G3D

Mapcode Global: XHD3J.83W3

Entry Name: Isleshaven, burnt mounds 500m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13017

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Lerwick

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland Central

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a group of five burnt mounds, visible as low grass-covered mounds, which are likely to date to between 2000 BC and 1000 BC. The monument is located at around 15m above sea level, on grazing land sloping eastwards and overlooking Trondra and the mainland. The mounds are roughly positioned along a fresh water course, below a small lochan, and occupy an overall area of approximately 100m WSW to ENE by 45m NW to SE.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan comprising four circular areas (three of them overlapping) centred on each of the individual components. These areas 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument survives as an upstanding group of earthworks in good condition overall, although localised disturbance by burrowing animals has exposed evidence of heat-cracked stones in the matrix of the mounds. A single mound is located next to the lochan and two pairs of adjacent mounds lie some 40m and 75m to the ENE. The mounds are each sub-circular, though the middle two mounds together form a crescentic shape. Their diameter varies from 4m to 11m, and they stand to a maximum height of 1.5m.

Burnt mounds are made from heaps of burnt and fire-cracked stone, occurring usually within a matrix of dark soil and perhaps charcoal or ash. The stones represent the accumulated waste from the use of hot stones to heat water, probably for a variety of purposes. After several immersions, the stones would crack and break and were discarded to form burnt mounds. Burnt mounds are often accompanied by troughs that held the water and there is sometimes evidence for associated shelters and the hearths in which the stones were heated. Burnt mounds typically lie close to a stream or other water source. This group of five burnt mounds in close proximity may indicate a more complex or longer use of this location than is usual for single burnt mounds.

The monument has not been excavated and therefore retains excellent potential to inform our understanding of the date and nature of burnt mounds, their function(s) and duration. The mounds and the ground around and beneath them may contain artefacts or ecofacts that can increase our understanding of how they were used. The mounds may have accumulated directly on an old ground surface and may seal important environmental information that could increase our knowledge of the landscape and land-use before and during the mound's creation. The fact that the monument comprises a group of burnt mounds in close proximity adds significantly to the research potential.

Contextual characteristics

There are around 1,900 recorded examples of burnt mounds in Scotland with notable concentrations in some areas, including Shetland. The greater number in Shetland may also reflect survival because of a lack of later development or agricultural improvement. Burnt mounds in the Northern and Western Isles and northern Scotland are often particularly large. They often show the classic crescentic shape and may have been reused on many occasions over a significant period. They may also have served different social and practical functions to smaller mounds.

In Scotland, excavated examples typically date to the middle Bronze Age, around 1500 BC, but the overall range of dates varies from the late Neolithic through to the early historic period (around 2400 BC to AD 900). A common interpretation of these monuments in Scotland is that they were used to boil water for cooking. However, researchers have also suggested that they could have been used as saunas or sweat-lodges (possibly medicinal as well as sanitary); as baths; or for textile production (dying and fulling), brewing or leather working. Burnt mounds are often found in relatively isolated locations in Scotland, but in Shetland they sometimes occur in association with settlement remains.

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 prehistoric society and the construction and use of burnt mounds and their placing in the landscape. The good preservation of the monument and the presence of a group of mounds in a relatively small area enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric ritual and domestic practice, both in Shetland and in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU33NE 3. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN900.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.