Ancient Monuments

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North Gardie, prehistoric settlement, cairns and enclosures 660m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.297 / 60°17'49"N

Longitude: -1.3956 / 1°23'44"W

OS Eastings: 433508

OS Northings: 1157131

OS Grid: HU335571

Mapcode National: GBR Q1XJ.777

Mapcode Global: XHD2J.7G61

Entry Name: North Gardie, prehistoric settlement, cairns and enclosures 660m NW of

Scheduled Date: 27 September 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13107

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: chambered cairn

Location: Sandsting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of five prehistoric oval houses and their enclosures, a substantial linear boundary, a burial cairn and a smaller mound which may also be a burial cairn, all likely to be Neolithic in date (from some time between 4000 and 1500 BC). The ground between these structures is also likely to contain significant archaeological deposits. The complex lies across the southern slope of Hill of Braewick, between Loch of Vaara and Aith Voe, on a mixture of improved and rough pasture land between 20m and 60m above sea level.

The area to be scheduled comprises two separate polygons, 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 main complex lies within the large irregular polygon measuring 575m E-W by 450m N-S (maximum); the probable burial cairn lies within the small circular polygon, 16m in diameter, to the north. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are the above-ground elements of all services, all modern boundary features, gates and cattle grids and the top 30cm of all modern tracks, 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

This monument survives in good condition overall and combines the above-ground visible remains of houses and other structures with further buried remains, including structures, artefacts and ecofacts, likely to be sealed by later soil deposition.

This complex of individual houses, enclosures, a linear boundary, a burial cairn and another probable burial cairn, represents significant and relatively early prehistoric activity. The oval or sub-circular houses individually measure between 5m and 16m across. The overall footprints of the houses are clear, with the remains of the lower two or three courses extant and partly turf-covered. Stone from two of these houses has been reused to build a sheep shelter or planticrub within the footprint of the original buildings. To the immediate south of one of the central houses, a ruined post-medieval chapel stands within the prehistoric enclosure. All the houses have uneven interiors, indicating that contemporary structural, artefactual and environmental remains are likely to be present. The enclosures are oval or sub-circular and generally about 50m across; they are visible as fragmentary arcs of stone walling, with their circuit traceable in most cases. The burial cairn is approximately 25m across and comprises a mound of variously sized stones, partly obscured by rough grass, with no discernible kerb. A line of four earthfast monoliths runs approximately 130m southwards from the southern arc of the cairn. A second probable burial cairn occurs to the north of the main complex. Finally, an intermittent line of stones and larger boulders appears to define a substantial linear boundary to the south of the remains described above. This boundary runs approximately WNW-ESE and cuts off the higher, south-facing slopes of Hill of Braewick from the lower ground to the south.

There is intrinsic archaeological potential not only in the individual houses and their associated enclosed land, but also in the overall group of these prehistoric sites occupying the southern slope of Hill of Braewick. The houses can help us understand more about architecture and the construction of domestic buildings in the Neolithic period, as well as the exploitation of the wider landscape. This group of houses together probably represents a development sequence, which, combined with the enclosures, field system and southern boundary, can help us understand more about prehistoric settlement and land management and how this changed over time. In about 1990, a track was cut through one of the houses, leading to the discovery of three polished Neolithic axes, which reinforces the monument's potential significance.

Contextual characteristics

This is a rich relict cultural landscape with much of the settlement and boundary remains surviving as visible remains on the ground surface. With several broadly contemporary settlement sites to the west of Loch of Vaara, this area appears to have been well populated in prehistory. This monument can help to further understanding of the daily lives of the communities living and farming here, and their economic and social status, as well as the wider patterns of settlement and management of the landscape. It indicates something of the relative agricultural prosperity of the area in the Neolithic period and the choices made about land division and use.

A surviving complex of prehistoric monuments such as this is relatively uncommon in Scotland, though more common in Shetland. This monument has high group value, with considerable potential to help further our understanding of the organisation of the wider community than that derived from individual houses.

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, in particular of prehistoric settlement and land use. This potential is enhanced because of the survival of a group of houses and their enclosures, and the likely survival of buried deposits in the land between them. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses, changes in settlement over time, and the relationship of houses to other features such as enclosures, cairns and larger land boundaries. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand early prehistoric settlement in the Northern Isles.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1997, 'Loch of Varra', 68.

Tait, I. 2011, 'Post-medieval reuse of Neolithic sites in Shetland', in Mahler, D. L. and Anderson, C. (eds) Farming on the Edge: Cultural Landscapes of the North, 72.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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