Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Wiltrow, cists and structure 145m east of Sharisma

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.911 / 59°54'39"N

Longitude: -1.2911 / 1°17'27"W

OS Eastings: 439747

OS Northings: 1114210

OS Grid: HU397142

Mapcode National: GBR R25J.T86

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.L4JW

Entry Name: Wiltrow, cists and structure 145m E of Sharisma

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1975

Last Amended: 16 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3736

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises two burial cists and an adjacent structure of Bronze Age or Iron Age, all built probably between 2500 BC and 800 AD. The cists are about 1m apart. The cist to the southwest measures about 1m NW-SE by 0.5m transversely and is 0.3m deep; a stone slab is visible at the NE end. The other cist is smaller, about 0.4m square, with slabs at the NE and SW sides. The cists lie where a low mound about 9m in diameter used to be visible and some remains of this mound probably survive below ground level. About 16m southwest of the cists is a curving arc of edge-set stones, around 3m long in total, which probably represents the inner face of a concave wall. It stands on a low sub-circular mound 9.5m in diameter. A low rise, 3m to the south, may indicate the remains of a third mound. The monument stands 30m above sea level on a gentle NE-facing slope that extends some 550m to the east coast of Mainland. Its location offers views northeast to the sea. 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, measuring 46m SW-NE by 29m transversely. 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

The cists and structure survive in stable condition. The cists lie on the site of a low, elongated mound, some 9m in length, which may represent the remains of what was originally a round cairn. Excavation suggests that round cairns were often used to cover and mark human burials and are commonly Bronze Age in origin, dating usually from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. These cists have been opened in the past and it is not known what they contained. However, it is probable that below-ground elements of the surrounding cairn are intact and that archaeological information may survive below ground level, possibly including additional burials.

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, a buried land surface may be preserved that could provide evidence of the nature of the immediate environment before the mound was constructed. Botanical remains, including pollen or charred plant material, may survive within archaeological deposits, and these can help us to reconstruct a picture of the climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during the period when the cists were constructed. The adjacent structure is difficult to interpret on the basis of the remains visible on the ground surface, but there is good potential that excavation of the buried remains could allow future researchers to date and characterise this feature and to compare it with the cists. Past finds of pottery and industrial waste suggest that this may be part of an Iron Age building or working area. The low rise to the south may be the remains of another mound, potentially representing either a structure or a cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Cairns are well represented in Shetland, but this example, though denuded above ground, is part of a group that preserves evidence for associated cists. Other cairns with cists survive nearby, located 505m WNW and 515m N of this monument. There is also potential to compare this monument with similar sites further afield in Shetland, for example, with a cluster of two cairns with cists or small chambers in Nesting. Across Scotland, cairns and cists are often positioned in places where they are 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. As well as the nearby cairns, there are settlements some 350m to the NNW and 530m to the NW, and burnt mounds 570m to the ENE and 550m to the N. The closest settlement is associated with evidence for iron smelting, which is of interest given that slag was found associated with the stone structure at this site. Comparison of this cairn and stone structure with other prehistoric sites in the area offers the potential to further our understanding of ritual, funerary and settlement site location and practice and to enhance our understanding of prehistoric society and economy.

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 and their significance in prehistoric society. Buried evidence from cairns and cists 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 burial cairns, burnt mounds 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 3. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN589 (PrefRef 589).


Calder, C, S, T, 1965 'Cairns, Neolithic houses and burnt mounds in Shetland' in PSAS, 96, 54.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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