Ancient Monuments

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Gallow Hill, cairn and cist 180m east of Parkview

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.913 / 59°54'46"N

Longitude: -1.2992 / 1°17'57"W

OS Eastings: 439292

OS Northings: 1114428

OS Grid: HU392144

Mapcode National: GBR R24J.PCM

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.H38B

Entry Name: Gallow Hill, cairn and cist 180m E of Parkview

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1975

Last Amended: 16 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3727

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument is a burial cairn built in the Neolithic or Bronze Age, probably between 4000 and 1000 BC. It is visible as a low mound of stones, about 6m in diameter and partly turf covered. A burial cist formed of boulders and stone slabs lies at the centre of the cairn and measures 1.5m E-W by 0.8m transversely by 0.4m deep. There are slight traces of a possible kerb around the edge of the cairn, including one standing stone set on end. Other large stones, some set on edge, define a sub-circular enclosure about 27m in diameter that surrounds the cairn. The cairn stands 60m above sea level on a hilltop that offers extensive views east to the coast, some 875m away. 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 a circle, 35.5m in diameter on plan, centred 3.5m NNE of the cist. 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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Excavation suggests that round cairns were often used to cover and mark human burials and are late Neolithic or Bronze Age in origin, dating most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. The cist in the centre of this cairn has been opened in the past and it is not known what it contained. However, the cairn itself survives as an upstanding mound of stones and further archaeological information is likely to be present beneath the cairn and in its vicinity. One or more additional burials may survive, particularly as archaeologists sometimes find burials away from the centres of cairns.

The excavation of similar monuments elsewhere in Scotland has shown that cairns may incorporate or overlie several graves or pits containing skeletal remains, either cremations or inhumations, as well as pottery and stone tools. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific times in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed, while botanical remains including pollen or charred plant material may survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the cairn's construction and use. This evidence can help us to reconstruct a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn. There is also potential to examine the construction and dating of the sub-circular enclosure and to study its relationship with the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Cairns are well represented in Shetland, but this example is one of an interesting group that preserves evidence for a central stone cist. It can be compared with similar monuments in the vicinity, 630m to the ENE and 510m to the ESE, as well as with cairns further afield, for example, a round cairn with cist on Nesbister Hill and two cairns in Nesting that both have a central cist or small chamber. Across Scotland, cairns are often positioned in places where they are both clearly visible in the landscape and from where there are also good views outwards, and they are often inter-visible. The position and significance of this cairn in relation to other prehistoric monuments is likely to be significant and merits future detailed analysis. It stands on high ground above the two cairns to the east and above a prehistoric settlement 320m to the east.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial practices and their significance in prehistoric and later society. Buried evidence from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. This monument is particularly valuable because it lies in a landscape where there is a variety of prehistoric monuments, including other burial cairns and settlements. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistoric life.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU31SE 2. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN581 (PrefRef 581).


Calder, C, S, T, 1965 'Cairns, Neolithic houses and burnt mounds in Shetland' in PSAS, 96, 57.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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