Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Norden, burnt mound 160m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.4735 / 60°28'24"N

Longitude: -1.2057 / 1°12'20"W

OS Eastings: 443771

OS Northings: 1176901

OS Grid: HU437769

Mapcode National: GBR R1C1.XWN

Mapcode Global: XHD1T.Q05Q

Entry Name: Norden, burnt mound 160m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 20 December 1974

Last Amended: 24 February 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3557

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Delting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a substantial burnt mound, visible as a crescent-shaped earthwork about 10m in overall diameter and standing up to 1.5m high. The burnt mound is most likely to date to between 2000 BC and 1000 BC. The monument is located at around 20m above sea level, on grazing land which slopes eastwards and overlooks Tofts Voe and Yell to the northeast. The monument was first scheduled in 1974, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, measuring 25m in diameter, centred on the centre of the monument. The scheduling includes 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. Specifically excluded from this scheduling are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence to the immediate east of the monument, to allow for its maintenance.

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, turf-covered earthwork in good overall condition, despite some intrusion and disturbance by burrowing animals. Soil poaching in places has exposed some of the underlying burnt and fire-cracked stones. This mound was formed from two roughly similar discard mounds on either side of a central depression.

Burnt mounds are made from the waste products (stones) used to heat water probably for a variety of purposes. The crescent shape is formed as discarded material accumulates around a central area, which is normally where water-heating activities took place. 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. After several immersions, the heated stones would crack and break and were discarded to form burnt mounds. Troughs are usually set in the ground and lined with wood, stone or clay. As well as the overall form of the earthwork and its composition predominantly of burnt stones, the existence of a water source close to this mound helps to verify its function as a burnt mound.

The monument has good potential to inform our understanding of the date and nature of burnt mounds, their function(s) and duration. It and the immediately surrounding ground may contain artefacts or ecofacts that can increase our understanding of what they were for and how they were used. The mound may have also 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.

Contextual characteristics

There are around 1,900 recorded examples of burnt mounds in Scotland with notable concentrations in some areas, including Shetland. These concentrations largely correlate with surveyed areas and may not reflect the true distribution of burnt mounds. In Shetland, for example, there has been relatively fewer and less destructive land-use pressures. This is a large example of a burnt mound and characteristic of many in Shetland, which suggests a greater level of burnt mound activity here, perhaps over a longer period of time. It 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.

The proximity of this example to a second burnt mound just 100m to the northwest is interesting when compared with the single, isolated examples more common elsewhere. These monuments do not survive (and were not likely to have been used) in isolation, but were and are part of a wider contemporary landscape of settlement and land-use.

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 its proximity to a second burnt mound, 100m to the northwest, enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric domestic and ritual practice, both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU47NW 5.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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