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Taingi Geo, field system and burnt mounds 545m south east of Southvoe

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 59.9122 / 59°54'43"N

Longitude: -1.2815 / 1°16'53"W

OS Eastings: 440281

OS Northings: 1114340

OS Grid: HU402143

Mapcode National: GBR R25J.RH9

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.Q4D0

Entry Name: Taingi Geo, field system and burnt mounds 545m SE of Southvoe

Scheduled Date: 13 August 1975

Last Amended: 16 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3725

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a field system, several clearance cairns and two burnt mounds. The field system is approximately oval in shape with maximum measurements of around 142m NNW-SSE by 86m transversely. It is defined by lines of stones and, in places, a low bank. The E side is defined by two almost parallel boundaries, 7m to 15m apart. There are at least five clearance cairns within the field system, visible as low piles of stones. The field system and clearance cairns are likely to be prehistoric, dating to between 4000 BC and AD 400. The two burnt mounds are visible as upstanding, sub-circular, turf covered mounds and are likely to date to between 2000 and 1000 BC. One burnt mound lies towards the NE of the field system and measures about 5m in diameter and 0.7m high. The other burnt mound is smaller, lies just within the outer N boundary of the field system and includes a small stone-lined trough. The monument lies at around 20m above sea level, on a north-facing slope some 60m from the east coast of Mainland. A watercourse bounds the western edge of the site. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the above ground elements of post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

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 waste product from the use of hot stones to heat water, probably for a variety of purposes. Burnt mounds are often accompanied by associated features and there potential to recover evidence here for water troughs, shelters and the hearths in which the stones were heated.

These two burnt mounds survive in stable condition. The smaller mound has been subject to some excavation in the past, which has revealed a small, stone lined pit or trough suggesting a degree of complexity. Burnt mounds are often found in relatively isolated locations in Scotland, but in Shetland they sometimes occur in association with settlement remains. These examples are of particular interest because they lie within a prehistoric field system which may have been in use at the same time as the mounds. As well as clearance cairns, the field system includes an oval feature with a hollow centre that may represent a prehistoric house. There is potential to study the date and character of the burnt mounds and the other features within the field system and to evaluate the chronological relationships between them. The monument may contain artefacts or environmental evidence that could increase our understanding of the economy and agriculture of the site and the activities practiced here. The burnt mounds, clearance cairns and field boundaries may have accumulated directly on an old ground surface and may seal important environmental information that could increase our knowledge of the contemporary landscape and land-use.

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 reflect increased survival because of a lack of later development or agricultural improvement. 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.

There is good potential to study the field system and burnt mounds in their landscape context and to investigate whether the burnt mounds were sited close to, or away from, foci of contemporary domestic and ritual activity. This monument forms part of a rich archaeological landscape, with another field system located only some 60m to the NE, Southvoe broch some 470m to the NW, cairns located 530m to the W and 740m to the WNW, and a settlement 730m to the W.

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. This monument has particular interest because of the possibility that the burnt mounds were associated with a field system and a possible settlement. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric domestic and ritual practice in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as HU41SW 7. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR references are MSN626, MSN627, MSN628 and MSN629.

References

RCAHMS, 1946 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh. Vol 3, 43.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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