Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Longhill, prehistoric house 180m NNE of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2994 / 60°17'57"N

Longitude: -1.6204 / 1°37'13"W

OS Eastings: 421081

OS Northings: 1157312

OS Grid: HU210573

Mapcode National: GBR Q1CJ.088

Mapcode Global: XHD2F.8DZ5

Entry Name: Longhill, prehistoric house 180m NNE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13009

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Walls and Sandness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric house, visible as the low footings of stone and turf walls, with protruding boulders. It is believed to be late Neolithic or Bronze Age in date, probably from around 3000 to 1000 BC. It is located at around 20m above sea level on improved grazing and occupies part of a small promontory which extends into a small loch to the north and west.

The house is built from variously sized and roughly shaped, turf-covered boulders. It is roughly oval in shape and has substantial walls up to 3m thick in places. The structural form is elongated by the arrangement of at least four large boulders which project northwards from the house. The overall structure measures approximately 10m north-south by 8m east-west.

The area to be scheduled is a circle on plan, 30 metres in diameter, centred on the centre of the monument. The area to be scheduled includes the remains described 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

This prehistoric house survives in good overall condition and appears largely undisturbed. The remains of the substantial outer wall, parts of the inner facing and the entrance feature at the N end are largely intact and the overall form of the house is clearly visible. The site is likely to contain important buried deposits, including artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental evidence. Researchers have suggested that the oval form indicates an early design and that this site may have seen two or more building phases, including the possible expansion of a circular form with a conjoined area, perhaps a courtyard or more elaborate entrance. The interior space of these early types was typically recessed, especially at the rear of the house, and there is a suggestion of further architectural detail in the interior of the house at Longhill, albeit obscured by the grass cover. This house has the potential to tell us much about the design and building of prehistoric domestic structures, their internal layout and development sequence, and changes in use. Archaeological investigation at similar sites has yielded high quality artefactual and ecofactual material, which can help us to build up a much fuller picture of prehistoric domestic life.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of a number of broadly similar prehistoric houses that characterise early settlement and the development of agriculture in the third millennium BC in Shetland. It is part of a relatively rare and geographically restricted group, which gives us a more balanced view of prehistoric life, when compared with the more common and widespread burial and ceremonial monuments of the later Neolithic elsewhere in Scotland. It is an important element of a much wider relict landscape and it testifies to early human efforts to exploit land and natural resources for agricultural production. There can be an impressive time-depth to these early houses, as may well be the case at Longhill, which can tell us much about change and continuity over long periods.

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, the nature of prehistoric settlement in Shetland and the development of agriculture. This site is unexcavated and survives in relatively good condition. It is therefore highly likely to preserve architectural, artefactual and environmental evidence which could add to our knowledge and understanding of the lives of the people who built this house, occupied it, and subsequently abandoned it. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric domestic architecture and settlement both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU25NW 1. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN2628.


Calder, C S T, 1964, 'Cairns, neolithic houses and burnt mounds in Shetland' in, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 89, 340-397.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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