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Bayanne House, prehistoric settlement 100m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.6597 / 60°39'35"N

Longitude: -1.0515 / 1°3'5"W

OS Eastings: 451946

OS Northings: 1197758

OS Grid: HU519977

Mapcode National: GBR R0RK.NSG

Mapcode Global: XHF7N.QBPF

Entry Name: Bayanne House, prehistoric settlement 100m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 5 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13125

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Yell

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of an Iron Age settlement, constructed and occupied between around 500 BC and AD 500. Two clearly visible oval structures survive, with faced walling, covered with turf and revetted with earth banks. Beyond the main structures there are indications of other remains in the adjacent field. In addition, stratified archaeological deposits are visible over a distance of at least 30m in the cliff section immediately to the SW, S and SE of the settlement. The site lies on a low cliff, less than 10m above sea level, on gently sloping land overlooking Basta Voe.

One structure, defined by an oval stone and turf wall measuring a maximum of 10m NW-SE by 5.5m transversely, sits on the edge of the low cliff. Although partially lost to coastal erosion, the majority of the structure survives and its form is still clear. There are slight traces of at least four internal cellular divisions, defined by larger upright stones projecting into the interior. Evidence suggests the presence of two hearths within the structure, one of which is visible in section at the cliff edge. A second structure is situated immediately to the NE of the first and sits slightly further inland. The structure is defined by an oval stone and turf wall, revetted by earth banks and semi-subterranean in nature; it measures approximately 12m NW-SE by 7m transversely (external dimensions). The wall itself is faced internally and survives best on the eastern arc, reaching an average height of 0.5m. The entrance, located on the south side of the building, appears to have been elongated and elaborated during a later phase of development. The interior of the structure is radially divided by roughly built stone divisions, defined by upright stones projecting from the enclosing wall into the interior of the structure. Excavation has revealed at least three additional structures on this site, including a 'figure-of-eight' type house, with evidence for multiple phases of construction and abandonment and agricultural activity on the land surrounding the structures.

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. To allow for its maintenance, the scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence which runs around the edge of these structures and partly across the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Archaeological investigation was undertaken on this site after a short stretch of walling and midden material was uncovered by coastal erosion. A full programme of excavation and geophysical survey work was undertaken between 1995-1997 which revealed a long sequence of occupation and agricultural activity. Although archaeological excavation has been carried out here, many components of the site survive in good condition. The excavations saw the removal of internal occupation deposits within the houses, but significant parts of the house walls remain intact and the investigations were focused on the structures themselves. There is high archaeological potential in the area surrounding the remaining structures (there is evidence to suggest the survival of additional structures, agricultural activity and midden material), which has not been excavated and is relatively undisturbed. Moreover, the excavations have characterised the occupation of the site and have provided a chronological framework within which to set the surviving features, which adds to their interest and importance.

Archaeological excavation revealed a rich archaeological assemblage. The structures produced rich occupation deposits with charcoal, animal bone and shell among the domestic debris. A wealth of artefacts was found, including a large quantity of stone tool implements such as ard points, knives and mattock blades, as well as steatite vessels (a relatively uncommon find from this period). Almost all of the artefacts found can be attributed to the Iron Age and contribute to our understanding of later prehistoric life and the agricultural economy, providing evidence for animal husbandry and food preparation in particular. Ard marks were recorded in the area of ground adjacent to the earliest structure on the site, suggesting contemporary agricultural activity. This structure was not fully excavated and is likely to retain potential for further archaeological investigation which may be able to inform us about the origins and early development of the settlement and associated agricultural activity. Unlike much of Yell, which has acidic soils unconducive to organic preservation, this site sits on a pocket of glacial till and is therefore particularly important for its potential for preserved environmental evidence. A large quantity of animal bone and shell was recovered during the excavations and there is high potential for the survival of additional organic remains in the areas of the settlement that were not fully excavated.

The surviving remains have the potential to add to our understanding of human activity on this site. Buried features and deposits sealed below the intact walls may improve our knowledge of the character and date of activity before the stone buildings were erected. Exacavation revealed well-defined stratigraphy that was largely undisturbed, suggesting that the remaining unexcavated areas of this monument have high archaeological potential. Examination of the structures themselves can improve our understanding of Iron Age building techniques. There is also potential for the recovery of artefacts and ecofacts beneath the remaining structures, where later disturbance will have been limited, and in the area immediately surrounding the buildings. Such finds would contribute to our understanding of prehistoric daily life and provide an insight into trade and the nature of the agricultural economy in Shetland. The discovery of trough querns on the site suggests possible Bronze Age origins indicative of a longer development sequence, supporting the suggestion that earlier traces of occupation may survive beneath the existing remains. These remains can inform our knowledge of day to day agricultural life and of trade and exchange with other communities. The excavation results also suggested the presence of adjacent field systems and evidence for cultivation which remain to be explored further; the area immediately surrounding the structures has the potential to provide us with a better understanding of the early phases of development and agricultural activity on the site. There is also potential to apply modern soil science to gain a better understanding of how the land was cultivated and how soils were developed and improved.

Contextual characteristics

Relatively few prehistoric settlement sites have been found on Yell, probably because of the blanket peat that covers much of the island. Sites such as this are few in Shetland and northeast Scotland in general compared to the more visible Iron Age monuments such as brochs. There is a possible contemporary settlement site nearby, at the Whumblins of Cunnister approximately 430m SE of Bayanne, where artefacts similar to those at Bayanne have been found. Local knowledge also suggests the presence of possible Bronze Age cist burials across the voe at Colvister, although these have not been formally recorded. Further afield at Burra Ness, nearly 4.5km to the SE, there are the remains of a well preserved broch with substantial earthworks and associated settlement, but on the whole there are few comparable contemporary settlement sites in Shetland. The only close comparison so far to the site at Bayanne is the excavated settlement at Kebister, Dales Voe, on the east side of Shetland Mainland, but this was less well preserved. Bayanne is therefore especially important as a rare example of an undefended domestic Iron Age settlement.

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 Iron Age settlement and farming in Shetland. Although the site has been partially excavated, the walls of the structures remain in situ and undisturbed floor deposits and archaeological deposits beneath and beyond the walls of the existing structures are likely to survive. Exacavations at this site have provided us with a sound understanding of the form and chronology of the settlement and have also provided a substantial finds assemblage that enhances our understanding of the settlement and management of the surrounding land. The importance of the site is significantly increased as it is a relatively rare and little studied class of site in Shetland; there are few known settlements dating to the Iron Age that are not associated with brochs and little is known about such sites and their inter-relationship. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the settlement and agriculture of Iron Age Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as HU59NW 5 (Canmore ID 1385). The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2302 (PrefRef 2185).


EASE, 1995, 'Bayanne House (Yell parish), Iron Age settlement', Discovery Excav Scot, Environmental and Archaeological Services (EASE), 106.

Irvine, J T, 1885 'Note of excavations and discoveries on the Tafts of Bayann, below Sellafirth on Bastavoe, Yell, Shetland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.19, 385-6.

Wilson and Moore, G and H, 1995 Report on Assessment Excavation at Bayanne House, Yell, Shetland, EASE/Shetland Amenity Trust.

Wilson and Moore, G and H (1996) 'Bayanne House (Yell parish), settlement', Discovery Excav Scot, 96.

Wilson and Moore, G and H (1997) 'Bayanne House (Yell parish), settlement', Discovery Excav Scot, 71.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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