Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Hill House, cairn 100m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.9155 / 59°54'55"N

Longitude: -1.2928 / 1°17'33"W

OS Eastings: 439649

OS Northings: 1114711

OS Grid: HU396147

Mapcode National: GBR R25J.DBG

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.K1VD

Entry Name: Hill House, cairn 100m NW of

Scheduled Date: 15 August 1975

Last Amended: 27 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3730

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 comprises a cairn of the Neolithic period or Bronze Age, built probably between 4000 and 1000 BC. It is visible as a low, circular turf-covered mound, 9m in diameter and 0.5m high, with a small mound, 2.5m across, in the centre. Several stones protrude through the turf. The cairn stands at about 40m above sea level, on an east-facing slope, 150m northeast of the Loch of Browbeck. 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 19m NE-SW by 17m transversely (maximum). 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

Excavations elsewhere in Scotland have demonstrated that round cairns were often used to cover and mark human burials and are normally late Neolithic or Bronze Age in origin, dating most commonly from the late third millennium to the early second millennium BC. The monument appears intact and archaeological information is likely to survive beneath its surface, including possibly one or more burials. The excavation of similar monuments elsewhere shows that cairns often incorporate or overlie graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and stone tools. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemorating the dead at specific points 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, and 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 build up a picture of the climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Cairns are well represented in the Shetland Islands, but this example has particular interest because of its location close to other prehistoric sites, notably two homesteads to the west and a broch and a large burnt mound to the east. Together, these monuments have the potential to contribute to analysis of changing uses of the local landscape in prehistory. Given the many comparable sites in the area, this monument has the potential to further our understanding not just of funerary site location and practice, but also of the structure of early 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, 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 are several other prehistoric sites. 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 Loch of Browbeck, cairn, HU31SE19. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is Loch of Browbeck MSN583 (PrefRef 583).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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