Ancient Monuments

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Uyea Breck, standing stone 265m east of Clivocast

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.685 / 60°41'6"N

Longitude: -0.8924 / 0°53'32"W

OS Eastings: 460599

OS Northings: 1200713

OS Grid: HP605007

Mapcode National: GBR S04H.HPW

Mapcode Global: XHF7J.TP7K

Entry Name: Uyea Breck, standing stone 265m E of Clivocast

Scheduled Date: 28 December 1953

Last Amended: 31 October 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2046

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises a standing stone likely to date to the third or second millennium BC. It is approximately 3m high and, at its maximum, 0.86m wide by 0.38m thick. The schist monolith is irregularly-shaped, with its broader sides facing north and south. The stone leans towards the northeast. Packing stones of various sizes are partly visible around its base, indicating that evidence may survive for its date and method of erection. The standing stone is located in a prominent position with views to the south. The monument was first scheduled in 1958 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is a truncated circle on plan, measuring 10m in diameter. The scheduling includes the stone described above and an area around it within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes the post-and-wire fence bounding its northern edge.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The standing stone survives in good condition. Several packing stones are visible at its base, helping to keep it upright and indicating that the monolith was placed in a pit when first erected. This relatively undisturbed context suggests that archaeological deposits are likely to survive in buried horizons around and at the base of the stone.

Contextual characteristics

Standing stones are widespread in Scotland, demonstrating that prehistoric people occupied much of the country, stretching from the south and southwest to the Northern Isles. Standing stones are often part of a wider system of monuments (such as henges, stone circles and cairns), and often take advantage of natural routeways and vantage points. In this case, there are impressive views from the stone towards the south and southeast. Like many other examples, this standing stone is positioned below the high ground locally (in this case to the northwest) and away from summits.

Another standing stone, located 230m to the southwest, may be associated with this one; and 20m further to the southwest are the remains of a burial mound. This was excavated in 1875 and produced both cremated material and an inhumation burial, together with what was recorded as 'armour'.

Researchers have charted the alignment of standing stones with celestial bodies and events. They believe that standing stones such as this formed part of important ceremonial or religious events, for instance, the marking of changes in season or times in the agricultural year. Like other significant examples, the effort required to transport and erect this monolith would have been substantial. Whether sourced locally or brought to this spot from further afield, the presence and position of the standing stone indicate something of the importance of this locality. The standing stone has the capacity to enhance our understanding of this early period. It may have the potential to further our knowledge of contemporary ceremonial and ritual landscapes.

Associative characteristics

Over the years the stone at Uyea Breck has become the focus of local stories and legendary events. One tale involves two witches, one in Unst and the other in Fetlar, and recounts how they shared between them a pair of tongs or Klivin. They would cast the tongs back and forth over the sound between the two islands. The stone is thought to mark the location where the tongs landed and the name 'Clivocast' is derived from this. Another legend associates the stone with the Viking period, believing it to mark the location where the son of Harold Fairhair, first king of Norway, died around AD 900. Legend has it that he was buried in the mound near the standing stone to the southwest, which was erected to mark his grave.

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 ritual and ceremonial landscape of Shetland in the third or second millennium BC. Its loss would significantly impede our ability to understand the nature of earlier prehistoric ritual and ceremonial practice, as well as the wider beliefs of the prehistoric people that used these sites, both in Shetland and in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

RCAHMS, 1946 Twelfth Report with an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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