Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Pinhoulland, settlement and field system 515m south east of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2281 / 60°13'41"N

Longitude: -1.5352 / 1°32'6"W

OS Eastings: 425844

OS Northings: 1149405

OS Grid: HU258494

Mapcode National: GBR Q1KP.WTD

Mapcode Global: XHD2V.D5JS

Entry Name: Pinhoulland, settlement and field system 515m SE of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13027

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 is a prehistoric settlement that was probably occupied between 3000 BC and AD 500. The main components are three circular houses, a field system of irregular enclosures and a scatter of small clearance cairns. The monument lies about 10m above sea level and extends up a gentle slope from the N shore of the Loch of Grunnavoe.

The two westernmost houses stand side by side and are overlain by the NW wall of a much later stone-walled enclosure. Of the two, the western measures about 6m in diameter within a wall reduced to a stony bank 0.7m high and spread to a thickness of up to 2.5m. A short stretch of the outer wall face is visible on the SSE side. The adjacent structure to the east measures no more than 4.5m in diameter within a thick, grass-grown stony bank. The third house stands apart, some 90m to the ENE, and measures about 4.5m in diameter within a wall now visible as a low band of rubble. At least four clearance cairns lie within 30m of this house, in a cluster on its SW side. The field system comprises at least four conjoined enclosures defined by low banks or lines of boulders. Two of the field banks adjoin the N side of the western pair of houses. The enclosures are irregular in shape, with maximum dimensions of 70m by 50m. Later features include a large stone-walled 'P'-shaped enclosure, with two smaller conjoined enclosures on its W end. These adjoin the loch shore and old maps show that they were built before 1882. There is also a small rectangular stone-walled sheep fold or kale yard at the NE corner of the earlier field system.

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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument survives in good condition below closely cropped grass. Significant buried archaeological remains are likely to be preserved beneath and around the visible upstanding structures. The three houses offer the potential for researchers to examine how prehistoric houses were designed and constructed. Foundation walls, pits and floor surfaces may exist beneath the turf. The buried remains may include artefacts and ecofacts that can help us understand how people lived at this site, how they farmed and used the natural environment, and how they exchanged goods with other groups. In particular, the three well-preserved houses represent two types of building, and offer the potential to compare building types. The pair to the west are oval and contiguous and perhaps resemble Iron Age structures, whereas the house to the east is approximately 'D'-shaped, with radial orthostats, superficially resembling Neolithic or Bronze Age buildings elsewhere in Shetland. It is likely that the houses represent a development sequence and can show how settlement here evolved over time. Researchers may he able to date some of the buried remains and determine whether occupation of the site was broken by one or more periods of disuse. There is also potential to compare the buildings with the adjacent field systems and clearance cairns and to determine whether these features are contemporary and how the occupants of the houses managed the landscape in their immediate vicinity. There is particular potential to determine how the field system developed and whether the soils were improved, and if so, how and when.

Contextual characteristics

This monument lies within a landscape that is exceptionally rich in prehistoric archaeological remains and its importance is enhanced because it can be compared with several nearby sites. A larger prehistoric settlement is centred about 450m to the NNE, where several houses lie in close proximity to a probable burial cairn. Another potential prehistoric settlement lies just north of Pinhoulland, 550m to the NW, where a sub-circular enclosure may represent the foundations of a large house or broch. In addition, the area contains several burnt mounds. The nearest lie about 200m to the NE, but large and impressive burnt mounds also exist 1 km to the WSW at Grunnavoe. Together, these monuments have the potential to reveal how this piece of landscape was used in prehistory, how the land-use developed over time, whether sites are contemporary and what relationships exist between them.

Associative characteristics

The stone-walled enclosures that overlie two of the prehistoric houses are depicted on the OS 1st edition 6-inch map of 1882.

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, in particular of prehistoric settlement and land-use. This potential is enhanced because the monument contains two different types of prehistoric house, as well as a field system and clearance cairns. It can also enhance and augment our understanding of other prehistoric settlements lying close by. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses, changes in settlement over time, and the relationship of houses to other features such as burnt mounds and cairns. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement in the west of Shetland Mainland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2424.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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