Ancient Monuments

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Loch of Beosetter, burnt mound 130m SSE of Sandgarth

A Scheduled Monument in Lerwick North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.1772 / 60°10'38"N

Longitude: -1.1176 / 1°7'3"W

OS Eastings: 449057

OS Northings: 1143971

OS Grid: HU490439

Mapcode National: GBR R1LV.2K0

Mapcode Global: XHF9Y.VGWB

Entry Name: Loch of Beosetter, burnt mound 130m SSE of Sandgarth

Scheduled Date: 28 December 1953

Last Amended: 31 October 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2027

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: burnt mound

Location: Bressay

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Lerwick North

Traditional County: Shetland



The monument comprises the remains of a substantial burnt mound, visible as an upstanding earthwork about 22m long and 12m wide and standing 2m high. The burnt mound is likely to date to between 2000 and 1000 BC. The monument lies on grazing land 10m from the east shore of the Loch of Beosetter, at around 5m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1974, but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

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

The monument survives as an upstanding, turf-covered mound in good overall condition, despite some intrusion and disturbance by burrowing animals and sheep. The present shape of the monument partly reflects limited excavation that has occurred in the past. A hollow on the NW side was formed by excavation in 1930, when fragments of a steatite vessel were found embedded in the burnt stones. There has also been partial excavation on the SE side, during which a rough cist-like structure was revealed. These areas of past disturbance are now grassed over.

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 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. Burnt mounds typically lie close to a stream or other water source.

This 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 a classic crescentic shape and may have been re-used 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 example to two other burnt mounds, 150m to the NE and 470m to the ENE, is interesting because single, isolated examples are more common. There is potential to compare the form, use and dating of the three mounds. These monuments were also part of a wider contemporary landscape of settlement and land-use, and a possible prehistoric dwelling lies 320m to the NW of this mound. Two horizontal mills 120m to the NE also reflect later use of a water course in this vicinity.

Associative characteristics

The monument is shown on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map as two separate mounds labelled tumuli. This suggests that the visible, upstanding remains of the monument were more extensive in the past.

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 examples in the vicinity enhance this potential. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of later prehistoric domestic and ritual practice in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland


No Bibliography entries for this designation

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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