Ancient Monuments

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Pinhoulland, settlement and field system 470m east of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2321 / 60°13'55"N

Longitude: -1.5328 / 1°31'58"W

OS Eastings: 425974

OS Northings: 1149847

OS Grid: HU259498

Mapcode National: GBR Q1KP.QC3

Mapcode Global: XHD2V.F2HR

Entry Name: Pinhoulland, settlement and field system 470m E of

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1977

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4053

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncerta

Location: Walls and Sandness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of at least eight house sites set within a complex of enclosures and field boundaries. It also includes a probable multi-phase burial cairn that occupies an elevated position at the southern edge of the settlement. The houses, field banks and cairn are visible as upstanding earthworks, but the monument also includes associated buried archaeological features. The remains are most likely to be Neolithic or Bronze Age in date (between about 4500 and 800 BC). The monument lies on the base and sides of a small valley that runs northeast to the shore of the Voe of Browland. It stands between 5m and 35m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1977 but the documentation does not meet modern standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

Researchers have identified between eight and ten prehistoric houses within an area measuring about 200m by 200m. The house remains include structures of varied size and form, but the buildings are generally oval in shape, defined by stone banks, walls or orthostats. Several show evidence for internal or external wall faces, and upright stones often suggest internal cells or recesses. The buildings include one twin structure and other examples with annexes or small ancillary structures. The largest building measures about 13m by 9m and is surrounded by an enclosure measuring 40m by 30m, bounded by a substantial turf-covered stone wall including several visible uprights. The remaining buildings typically range in size from about 7.5m by 5m to 10m by 8m. One of the probable houses lies beneath a much later planticrub.

The field system is irregular in shape and covers an area measuring about 320m SW-NE by 200m transversely, following the contours of a natural basin. The field walls are characterised by mainly turf-covered stone banks or lines of isolated stones. There are numerous clearance cairns; none were incorporated into the lines of the field walls, but several were relatively close to them. The cairn overlooks the settlement from the south. Researchers believe it is a complex, multi-phase burial monument that has been reused and modified over time. Its presence may help to explain the extended use of this landscape for settlement and agriculture over a long time period.

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. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument survives in excellent condition and its upstanding elements can easily be appreciated and analysed. The large number of structures and variety of enclosures suggest that the settlement had a long development sequence, while the complexity of the cairn also suggests modification and reuse over an extended time period. This means that the monument has excellent potential to inform our understanding of the date and nature of prehistoric settlements and cairns and of how their use changed over time. Examination of the building foundations can give us detailed information about the form and construction of houses and investigation of building interiors can contribute to our understanding of how structures were used and how this changed over time. Buried artefacts and ecofacts and buried soils can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, the extent and nature of trade and exchange, and the nature of the agricultural economy. The limited pollen study already conducted has started to give indications of species that grew across different parts of the field system, producing evidence for a range of grassland plants but only limited evidence for cereal-type pollen. The cairn can tell us about commemoration of the dead and how this altered over time. There is also potential to investigate the relationship between the cairn and the nearby houses.

Contextual characteristics

The monument lies within a landscape that is rich in known prehistoric remains. A wall comprising a long line of boulders extends SSW from the field system for at least 250m and traces of other boulder walls extend northwards for 2km, as far as the settlement at Scord of Brouster and beyond. Researchers interpret these as forming part of a rough grid pattern that subdivided the wider landscape in the prehistoric period, its three long axes aligned N-S and 200m to 300m apart. This extensive field system seems to be laid out without regard for contours, but is largely parallel to the shore of the voe. The settlement can be compared with another that lies only 350m to the south, on the N shore of the Loch of Grunnavoe, as well as with those less than 2km away to the north at Gallow Hill and Scord of Brouster. The latter has been excavated and provides excellent comparative evidence for the nature and construction of prehistoric houses and the practice of contemporary agriculture. Further afield, there are other house sites on the east side of Gruting Voe, including the excavated site at Ness of Gruting. In addition, there is a burnt mound some 250m to the south of this monument, and two much larger burnt mounds lie around 2km to the southwest at Grunnavoe. Four other cairns lie on the hillside 1km to the north, one of which is a chambered cairn.

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 nature of settlement, agriculture and commemoration of the dead in prehistoric Shetland. Its significance is enhanced because the close association of houses, field boundaries and a cairn means that it can support research in to the relationships between these structures. There is also excellent potential to make comparisons with nearby settlements and to study how the site fitted into a landscape that is rich in prehistoric remains. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistory of Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as HU24NE11 (Canmore ID 276). The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2422 (PrefRef 2305).


Edwards, K J and Whittington, G, 1998 'Landscape and envirnment in prehistoric West Mainland, Shetland'. Landscape History, 20, 5-17.

Turner, V, 2011 'From homestead enclosure to farm' in Mahler, C L and Andersen, C, (eds) Farming on the edge: Cultural Landscapes of the North. Northern Worlds Project, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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