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Yahaarwell, standing stones, 280m SSE of Berga

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.1732 / 60°10'23"N

Longitude: -1.4603 / 1°27'37"W

OS Eastings: 430046

OS Northings: 1143314

OS Grid: HU300433

Mapcode National: GBR Q1RV.FKS

Mapcode Global: XHD32.CKXG

Entry Name: Yahaarwell, standing stones, 280m SSE of Berga

Scheduled Date: 31 August 1953

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2049

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Sandsting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises one standing stone and a second stone to the NW which is now prostrate, likely to date to the third or second millennium BC. The upright stone is 2.45m high and, at its maximum, 1.85m wide. It is a three-sided block of red granite monolith, irregularly-shaped, and tapers towards its top. Variously sized packing stones are partly visible up to 1m around the base. The fallen stone lies approximately 9m to the NW. It is aligned N-S and has similar dimensions to the upright stone, measuring 2.9m by 1.45m. The stones are located on rough grazing on relatively level, high ground at approximately 56m above sea level, overlooking Skelda Voe to the east. The monument was first scheduled in 1953 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this and extends the scheduled area to include the second (fallen) stone.

The area to be scheduled is oval on plan, measuring a maximum of 25.5m NW-SE by 15m 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

Both stones survive in good condition overall. Several packing stones are visible at the base of the upright stone, helping to keep it in position and indicating that the monolith was placed in a pit when first erected. We know of no evidence that this stone has been moved and it is therefore likely to be standing within its original socket, indicating that evidence may survive for its date and method of erection. In addition to the packing stones, other archaeological material such as burial deposits may also lie at the base of the stone. It is believed that six stone knives were found beside the stone in the 19th century and there is potential for the surival of further remains relating to the monument's erection or use. The upright stone stands within a slight hollow and there are some signs of erosion at the base and rabbit burrowing in the close vicinity. The prostrate stone lies in a very slight hollow.

Contextual characteristics

Standing stones are widespread in Scotland, demonstrating that prehistoric people occupied much of the country, stretching from the south and southwest to the Northern Isles. Individual standing stones are often part of a much larger, wider system of monuments (such as henges, stone circles and cairns), which often take advantage of natural routeways and vantage points. Researchers have charted the alignment of standing stones with celestial bodies and events. It is believed that standing stones such as this formed part of important ceremonial or religious events, for instance, marking the changes in season or particular times in the agricultural year. As elsewhere, the effort required to transport and erect these monoliths would have been substantial. This indicates something of the importance of the locale and of the stones themselves, and their capacity to inform our understanding of the period.

The stones at Yahaarwell stand on level, high ground with good views in all directions. The views to the south and east across Skelda Voe are particularly impressive. As with many other examples, these stones stand below the local high ground, but their location is unusual in that, whilst they themselves have striking views, they are not widely visible in the surrounding landscape. There are two chambered cairns within the area, at Hoddans 525m to the SW and Swart-Houll 1.7km to the NE. This monument is probably similar to other examples of pairs of standing stones in Shetland, for example, the Giant's Stones at Hamnavoe and another pair at Gravlaba. The monument may have the potential to further our knowledge of contemporary ceremonial and ritual landscapes. Further study of the prehistoric monuments in this area may increase our understanding of the nature of the relationships between them and of the way in which contemporary society may have used different parts of the landscape.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey 1st edition map depicts the standing stone. There is a local story that the fallen stone was knocked down during a Christmas day football match c.1850.

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 ritual and ceremonial landscape of Shetland in the third or second millennium BC. Its loss would significantly impede our ability to understand the nature of earlier prehistoric ritual and ceremonial practice, as well as the wider beliefs of the prehistoric people that used these sites, both in Shetland and in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as HU34SW 2. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN2480 (PrefRef 2363).

References

RCAHMS, 1946 Twelfth Report with an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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