Ancient Monuments

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Dalsetter, burnt mound 60m WNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 59.9274 / 59°55'38"N

Longitude: -1.2835 / 1°17'0"W

OS Eastings: 440154

OS Northings: 1116041

OS Grid: HU401160

Mapcode National: GBR R25H.JL9

Mapcode Global: XHD49.PQLV

Entry Name: Dalsetter, burnt mound 60m WNW of

Scheduled Date: 13 August 1975

Last Amended: 19 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3704

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a substantial burnt mound, visible as an oval earthwork, 12m by 6m and standing 0.6m high. The burnt mound is likely to date to between 2000 and 1000 BC. The monument is located at around 35m above sea level, close to a watercourse. The monument was first scheduled in 1975, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is roughly oval on plan, centred on the monument. 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

The monument survives as an upstanding, turf-covered earthwork in good overall condition, despite some intrusion and disturbance by burrowing animals. A central depression separates the northern and southern 'arms' of the mound, with the latter being substantially smaller than the former. Soil poaching in places has exposed some of the underlying burnt and fire-cracked stones of which the mound is mainly composed.

Burnt mounds are made from heaps of burnt and fire-cracked stone, occurring usually within a matrix of dark soil and perhaps charcoal or ash. The common crescent shape is formed as discarded material accumulates around a central area, which is normally where the water-heating activities took place. The stones represent the waste product from the use of hot stones to heat water, probably for a variety of purposes. After several immersions, the stones would crack and break and were discarded to form burnt mounds. Burnt mounds are often accompanied by troughs that held 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; a 'cist-like structure', probably a trough, was once visible on this site. Burnt mounds typically lie close to a stream or other water source, as this example does.

The monument 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 and how they were used. The mound may have accumulated directly on an old ground surface and may seal 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. The greater number in Shetland may also reflect increased survival because of a lack of later development or agricultural improvement. Burnt mounds in the Northern and Western Isles and northern 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 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 or sweat-lodges (possibly medicinal as well as sanitary); as baths; or for textile production (dying and fulling), brewing or leather working. Burnt mounds are often found in relatively isolated locations in Scotland, but in Shetland they sometimes occur in association with settlement remains.

The proximity of this burnt mound to two other burnt mounds, 210m and 270m to the SSW, adds to its interest because single, isolated examples are more common. These monuments were part of a wider contemporary landscape of settlement and land-use.

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 prehistoric society and the construction and use of burnt mounds, and their placing in the landscape. The good preservation of the monument and its proximity to other burnt mounds enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric domestic and ritual practice, both in Shetland and in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References:

Calder, C ST 1965, 'Cairns, Neolithic houses and burnt mounds in Shetland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 96, 82.

RCAHMS 1946, Twelfth Report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

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