Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Grunivoe, burnt mound 125m SSE of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2214 / 60°13'17"N

Longitude: -1.5475 / 1°32'51"W

OS Eastings: 425169

OS Northings: 1148650

OS Grid: HU251486

Mapcode National: GBR Q1JQ.HN8

Mapcode Global: XHD2V.7BKY

Entry Name: Grunivoe, burnt mound 125m SSE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13026

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Walls and Sandness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a burnt mound, visible as two crescentic turf-covered banks encircling a central flat area. The burnt mound is most likely to date to between 2000 and 1000 BC. The monument is located at around 20m above sea level, on ground that slopes down to a coastal inlet known as The Houb, some 250m to the west.

The NW bank measures around 10m NE-SW by 7m transversely and stands 1m high, while the SE bank measures 15m NE-SW by 7m transversely and stands up to 1.5m high. There are narrow gaps between the two banks to the NE and SW. The central flat area is fed by a spring. A small denuded area on the SE bank reveals that it is composed of small angular burnt stones and earth.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include 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. On the E side, the scheduling extends up to but excludes a farm track.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument survives as an upstanding earthwork in good overall condition. There is a localised area of disturbance on the SE bank where quarrying is said to have occurred some 50 years ago, but this has had only a small-scale impact on the monument.

Burnt mounds are heaps of fire-cracked stone, usually occurring within a matrix of dark soil and perhaps charcoal or ash. The stones represent the waste product from the use of hot stones to heat water. After several immersions, the stones would crack and were discarded to form burnt mounds. Burnt mounds are often accompanied by troughs that retained the water and there is sometimes evidence for associated shelters and the hearths in which the stones were heated. Troughs are usually set in the ground and lined with wood, stone or clay. Burnt mounds typically lie close to a stream or other water source, as in this case.

This monument has suffered little disturbance and has good potential to inform our understanding of the date and nature of burnt mounds, their function(s) and duration. It may contain artefacts or ecofacts that can increase our understanding of the function of burnt mounds. The mound may have accumulated directly on an old ground surface, which may preserve important environmental information that could increase our knowledge of the landscape and land-use before and during the mound's creation.

Contextual characteristics

There are around 1,900 recorded examples of burnt mounds in Scotland with notable concentrations in some areas, including Shetland. However, these concentrations largely correlate with surveyed areas and may not reflect the true distribution. The concentration in Shetland may also reflect survival because of a lack of later development or agricultural improvement. Burnt mounds in the Northern and Western Isles and in the north of mainland Scotland are often particularly large. They often show the classic crescentic shape and may have been reused on many occasions over a significant period. They may also have served different social and practical functions to smaller mounds.

In Scotland, excavated examples of burnt mounds typically date to the middle Bronze Age, around 1500 BC, but the overall range of dates varies from the late Neolithic through to the early historic period (around 2400 BC to AD 900). A common interpretation of these monuments in Scotland is that they were used to boil water for cooking. However, researchers have also suggested that they could have been used as saunas/sweat-lodges (possibly medicinal as well as sanitary); as baths; or for textile production (dying; fulling), brewing or leather working. Burnt mounds are often found in relatively isolated locations in Scotland, but in Shetland they are sometimes found in association with settlement remains.

A second, slightly smaller burnt mound lies on a watercourse some 300m to the northwest of this monument. This proximity offers the potential to compare and contrast the mounds and to ascertain any relationship between them, which enhances their significance. There are a number of other archaeological sites within the area, including an important cluster of prehistoric houses at South Stany Fields, just over 1 km to the northeast. The chronological relationship between the burnt mounds and the settlement has not been established. Further study of nearby monuments in relationship to the burnt mounds may increase our knowledge of the way in which prehistoric society used different parts of the landscape.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric society and the construction and use of burnt mounds, and their placing in the landscape. The good preservation of the monument, its large size (possibly indicating longevity of use), and the presence of a second burnt mound 300m to the northwest, all enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric ritual and domestic practices, both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU24NE 20. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN2418.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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