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Gamligrind, Norse settlement 110m north west of, Unst

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.7425 / 60°44'33"N

Longitude: -0.8934 / 0°53'36"W

OS Eastings: 460435

OS Northings: 1207112

OS Grid: HP604071

Mapcode National: GBR S04B.WRS

Mapcode Global: XHF7B.S7TZ

Entry Name: Gamligrind, Norse settlement 110m NW of, Unst

Scheduled Date: 28 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13151

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: Viking settlement, Norse settlement

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises a Norse longhouse, built and occupied probably between AD 800 and AD 1300, with an adjoining annexe. The longhouse and annexe are visible as turf-covered stone walls and aligned SW-NE down the slope. The monument lies about 60m over sea level on the northern slopes of the Hill of Caldback in the island of Unst.

The longhouse is aligned SW-NE down the slope and measures 20m by 5m transversely, with 1.2m thick wall footings comprised of turf-covered masonry. The end walls are slightly rounded with a 1m wide entrance in the NE (downslope) end wall, and an annexe or outbuilding directly adjoining the long NW wall. The SE long wall is cut into the foot of a slope rising to the south and east. Internally, the longhouse is partitioned into two rooms by a transverse wall, with a central doorway, that separates the SW end from the rest of the house. The annexe is centrally located along the long NW wall and measures 11.5m NE-SW by 2.8m transversely, with walls up to 1.1m thick and of similar construction to the main house. There is a possible entrance to the annexe located centrally in its NW wall, although there is no evidence of any entrance leading from the annexe directly into the longhouse. There is a possible transverse wall demarcating the SW third of this annexe. There are traces of a yard wall extending westwards from the NW corner of the house.

The area to be scheduled is approximately rectangular 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.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The longhouse survives in excellent condition and appears undisturbed. Significant buried archaeological remains are expected to be preserved beneath and around the visible upstanding structures. The house and annexe closely resemble several excavated examples in Unst, for instance, at Underhoull, which also revealed evidence of earlier Iron Age occupation, and at Hamar, which revealed evidence of earlier Norse occupation beneath the longhouse. It is therefore highly likely that wall foundations, pits, floor surfaces, hearths and other features are likely to survive beneath the surface here. The buried remains are also highly likely to include a potentially rich assemblage of artefacts and ecofacts that can help us understand how people lived at this site, how they farmed and used the natural environment, and what contacts they had with other groups. The longhouse may exhibit a developmental sequence and could therefore show how settlement here evolved over time. Researchers may be able to date the buried remains more closely to ascertain when the house was built, the duration of its occupation and when it was abandoned. There is also potential to examine how the inhabitants managed the landscape in their immediate vicinity. It is interesting to note that Gamligrind is over 2km from the sea, almost equidistant from the west and east coasts of Unst, and in a location with relatively poor views. This site also appears marginal in terms of the quality of the surrounding land, although the longhouse itself appears substantial.

Contextual characteristics

Norse houses are rare in Scotland, but Unst contains many of the best-preserved examples with upwards of 30 identified across the island. This Norse longhouse can be compared with a number of others in Unst, including examples at Belmont, Hamar, Haroldswick, Gardie and Underhoull. The style of construction, the size and shape of the houses, the presence of an annexe and, sometimes, yards, are relatively similar across this group. Together, the Norse houses in Unst have exceptionally high group value, with the potential to teach us much about the rate and process of Norse colonisation of Unst and Shetland, the settlement pattern they established, the way of life of the Norse settlers, and the nature of any interaction with the native inhabitants. A number of other Norse settlements are known in Shetland, not least at Jarlshof in south Mainland, but the picture in Unst appears distinctive ' not only in terms of the density of settlement, but also in that many of the houses are located inland and not on the coast, as in this case.

Associative characteristics

The Gamligrind site is not recorded on any edition of the 6-inch OS map for Unst. The name 'Gamligrind' is purely Scandinavian and means 'old gate' or 'old fence'.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The longhouse survives in excellent condition and appears undisturbed. Significant buried archaeological remains are expected to be preserved beneath and around the visible upstanding structures. The house and annexe closely resemble several excavated examples in Unst, for instance, at Underhoull, which also revealed evidence of earlier Iron Age occupation, and at Hamar, which revealed evidence of earlier Norse occupation beneath the longhouse. It is therefore highly likely that wall foundations, pits, floor surfaces, hearths and other features are likely to survive beneath the surface here. The buried remains are also highly likely to include a potentially rich assemblage of artefacts and ecofacts that can help us understand how people lived at this site, how they farmed and used the natural environment, and what contacts they had with other groups. The longhouse may exhibit a developmental sequence and could therefore show how settlement here evolved over time. Researchers may be able to date the buried remains more closely to ascertain when the house was built, the duration of its occupation and when it was abandoned. There is also potential to examine how the inhabitants managed the landscape in their immediate vicinity. It is interesting to note that Gamligrind is over 2km from the sea, almost equidistant from the west and east coasts of Unst, and in a location with relatively poor views. This site also appears marginal in terms of the quality of the surrounding land, although the longhouse itself appears substantial.

Contextual characteristics

Norse houses are rare in Scotland, but Unst contains many of the best-preserved examples with upwards of 30 identified across the island. This Norse longhouse can be compared with a number of others in Unst, including examples at Belmont, Hamar, Haroldswick, Gardie and Underhoull. The style of construction, the size and shape of the houses, the presence of an annexe and, sometimes, yards, are relatively similar across this group. Together, the Norse houses in Unst have exceptionally high group value, with the potential to teach us much about the rate and process of Norse colonisation of Unst and Shetland, the settlement pattern they established, the way of life of the Norse settlers, and the nature of any interaction with the native inhabitants. A number of other Norse settlements are known in Shetland, not least at Jarlshof in south Mainland, but the picture in Unst appears distinctive ' not only in terms of the density of settlement, but also in that many of the houses are located inland and not on the coast, as in this case.

Associative characteristics

The Gamligrind site is not recorded on any edition of the 6-inch OS map for Unst. The name 'Gamligrind' is purely Scandinavian and means 'old gate' or 'old fence'. National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of Norse settlement and land-use in Unst and Shetland. It can also enhance and augment our understanding of the function and wider setting of Norse houses in the landscape. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of Norse settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses, changes in the nature of settlement over time, and the relationship of Norse houses and farmsteads to those of the native and earlier inhabitants. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand Norse settlement in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

Simpson, B, 2001 'Shetland's Past Project. Unst History Group, Gamligrind', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol 2, 85.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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