Ancient Monuments

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Lingness, prehistoric houses 740m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2719 / 60°16'18"N

Longitude: -1.1166 / 1°6'59"W

OS Eastings: 448967

OS Northings: 1154513

OS Grid: HU489545

Mapcode National: GBR R1LL.8ZJ

Mapcode Global: XHF9K.W27R

Entry Name: Lingness, prehistoric houses 740m NE of

Scheduled Date: 9 April 1975

Last Amended: 17 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3660

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises the remains of three oval prehistoric houses in close proximity to each other, varying from 8m to 13m in diameter. The remains are believed to be late Neolithic or Bronze Age in date, probably from around 3000 to 1000 BC. The monument is located at less than 10m above sea level on a narrow isthmus of land joining the promontory of Lingness to the mainland. The monument was originally scheduled in 1975 but the scheduled area was inadequate and the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, measuring 93m SW-NE by 79m NW-SE (maximum), to include the remains described above and an area of land around them on the isthmus within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The top 0.3m of the farm track that traverses the site is specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is situated within rough grazing land and is in stable condition. The houses survive to varying degrees and appear to have been heavily robbed of stone, most likely to construct a nearby field wall across the isthmus. The northernmost house is the best preserved and has been cut into sloping ground close to the shoreline. Although substantially robbed of stone on the S and E sides, there is clear evidence of an entrance on the S side. Internally there appears to be a stone-built alcove or chamber and there are intermittent traces of the wall face inside the structure, which is 9m in diameter. The largest oval house, up to 13m in diameter, is located on a terrace above and E of the other two houses. It is defined by a grass-covered wall bank with some stones visible; the bank is best preserved on the E side and a possible entrance exists at the N end. The least well preserved of the houses lies between the other two and is approximately 8m in length, but its full outline cannot be discerned.

Despite the extent of stone removal in antiquity, there is no evidence of excavation of buried remains and there is potential for the survival of significant buried archaeological remains both within and around the houses. The site is likely to contain important structural evidence for the buildings and the chronological relationship between them, as well as artefacts, ecofacts and other environmental evidence, which could help to further our understanding of prehistoric domestic life and agricultural activity.

Examination of building foundations can provide detailed information about the form and construction of prehistoric houses in Shetland, and buried features in the interior can contribute to our understanding of how houses were used and organised, and how this might change over time. Buried artefacts, ecofacts and soils can contribute to our understanding of how people lived and worked, and provide an insight into trade and exchange and the nature of the agricultural economy. Archaeological investigation at similar sites has yielded high quality artefactual and ecofactual material, which can help us to build up a much fuller picture of prehistoric domestic life. There is also the potential to compare the buildings with a field boundary that appears to cross the isthmus N of the settlement and may be contemporary, in order to determine the relationship between the features and to ascertain how the inhabitants managed the landscape in the immediate vicinity of the houses.

Contextual characteristics

The survival of a group of prehistoric oval houses, at least one of which is cut into the slope like a hut platform, is relatively rare in Shetland. When considered alongside other prehistoric houses, these sites are important in helping us to characterise early settlement and the development of agriculture in the third to second millennium BC in Shetland. Such sites form a significant part of a relatively rare and geographically restricted group, which gives us a more balanced view of prehistoric life, when compared with the more common and widespread burial and ceremonial monuments of the later Neolithic elsewhere in Scotland.

The monument's situation within the landscape, on an easily defended isthmus with excellent seaward views in all directions, is particularly notable. There are a number of other prehistoric monuments in the surrounding area. In the immediate vicinity a student reported a possible midden adjacent to the best preserved house, while apparently different phases of boundary dykes display evidence of a long history of landuse on the isthmus. Other prehistoric monuments occur nearby, including a burnt mound approximately 850m to the SE. The houses at Lingness are an important element of a much wider relict landscape that testifies to early human efforts to exploit land and natural resources, in particular for agricultural production, over several millennia. Comparison of this site with the other prehistoric domestic remains in the area would help us to develop a much better understanding of prehistoric domestic life and landuse.

Associative characteristics

The site was recorded by the eminent archaeologist C. S. T. Calder during his surveys in Shetland during the 1950s. Local tradition records a boat-shaped setting of stones at the site, which has been suggested as a Viking boat burial, but it seems likely that this interpretation relates to the least well-preserved of the three houses described above.

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, the nature of prehistoric settlement, agriculture and landuse in Shetland. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses and changes in settlement over time. There is also excellent potential to study how the site fitted into a landscape that is rich in prehistoric remains. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric domestic architecture and settlement, both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




Calder, C S T, 1958 'Stone Age house-sites in Shetland', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 89, 369.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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