Ancient Monuments

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Culsetter, prehistoric house 130m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.3894 / 60°23'21"N

Longitude: -1.3933 / 1°23'35"W

OS Eastings: 433543

OS Northings: 1167429

OS Grid: HU335674

Mapcode National: GBR Q1X8.N9P

Mapcode Global: XHD24.8445

Entry Name: Culsetter, prehistoric house 130m S of

Scheduled Date: 20 August 1974

Last Amended: 19 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3482

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Delting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric house, built probably between 3000 and 1000 BC. The house is visible as an oval bank of earth and stone, partly turf-covered. The site lies 1km from the W coast of Mainland. It stands 40m above sea level on ground that slopes west to Bays Water, a small freshwater loch. The monument was first scheduled in 1974 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The house has external dimensions of about 13m E-W by 10m transversely. The walls are substantial, up to 2m thick, and many large stones are visible within them. The walls survive to a height of around 0.9m on the outside and 0.6m on the inside. The entrance appears to be in the W wall, looking down slope. An additional bank projects westwards for 8.5m from the NW corner of the house, then turns south and terminates after a short distance; this may represent the remains of a front enclosure.

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 is a substantial monument and survives in good condition. Buried features and deposits are highly likely to be sealed below the house walls and within and around the structure. Examination of the structure could improve our understanding of prehistoric building techniques and demonstrate whether the building was constructed in one phase or whether there is a development sequence. In particular, there is potential to examine whether the bank to the west represents the remains of a forecourt associated with the prehistoric house and to ascertain its date and function. There is high potential for the recovery of artefacts and ecofacts, as demonstrated by the earlier recovery of two stone implements from the surface of the site, one axe-shaped, and the other part of a rounded tool made by pecking, but smoothed by rubbing on the underside. Further artefacts and ecofacts can enhance our knowledge of everyday domestic and agricultural life, and improve understanding of the economy and exchange contacts of the inhabitants.

Contextual characteristics

There are several other important prehistoric sites in close proximity to this house. These include a heel-shaped cairn 85m to the southwest and other prehistoric houses 190m and 300m to the northwest. There is high potential to make detailed comparisons between the evidence recovered from these various sites. For example, all three houses appear to have adjoining banks that may represent forecourts or elaborate entrances. Together, these monuments can enhance our understanding of how this part of Mainland was used in prehistory, how the land-use developed over time, whether sites are contemporary and what relationships existed between them.

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 prehistoric settlement and early farming in Shetland. The monument comprises the remains of a substantial and well-preserved prehistoric house, whose importance is significantly increased by the presence nearby of two other prehistoric houses and a heel-shaped cairn. Together, these monuments can provide insights into the chronology of settlement, burial and land-use in one area of Mainland. The loss of this monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the early settlement and agriculture of Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as part of HU36NW 4 (Canmore ID 796). The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN461 (PrefRef 461).


Calder, C S T, 1958 'Stone Age house-sites in Shetland' in PSAS, 89, 364-6.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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