Ancient Monuments

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Wasbister, burial mounds and settlement 650m south east of Buckan Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in West Mainland, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 59.0059 / 59°0'21"N

Longitude: -3.239 / 3°14'20"W

OS Eastings: 328928

OS Northings: 1013858

OS Grid: HY289138

Mapcode National: GBR L4CX.WGQ

Mapcode Global: WH69P.6WWW

Entry Name: Wasbister, burial mounds and settlement 650m SE of Buckan Cottage

Scheduled Date: 25 September 1998

Last Amended: 23 January 2015

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7700

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: barrow

Location: Sandwick

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: West Mainland

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument comprises two burial mounds and a prehistoric settlement dating probably to the 2nd millennium BC (Bronze Age) and earlier. The burial mounds and a pair of roundhouses are visible as upstanding features, but most of this extensive site survives below ground and has been identified by geophysical survey. The monument is situated in pasture on slightly sloping ground below Wasbister Hill, between the Lochs of Stenness and Harray at around 1m above sea level. It lies close to the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site, some 750m NW of the Ring of Brodgar. The monument was first scheduled in 1998, but the area was not adequate to cover the extent of the monument: the present scheduling rectifies this.

The southernmost burial mound appears to be a disc barrow. Lying on the E shore of the Loch of Stenness, it is a prominent, circular grass-covered mound of earth, some 15m in diameter and standing 0.8m high, surrounded by a ditch and external bank, about 6m wide in total with the bank standing 0.6m high. The northernmost burial mound lies some 275m NNW of the disc barrow; it measures around 8m in diameter and stands up to 0.6m high. The upstanding remains of a pair of adjacent roundhouses (a 'double roundhouse') lie between the burial mounds. The NW roundhouse is approximately 19m in diameter with wall-banks 0.6m high and an entrance to the SE, while the SE roundhouse is smaller at around 11m in diameter with wall-banks 0.5m high. Several earthfast stones are present in the banks of both structures. The buried remains of a complex and extensive prehistoric settlement have been detected by geophysical survey around the upstanding houses. The geophysical results have been interpreted as representing: a range of stone-built structures; a series of curvilinear and rectangular ditches, probably representing the remains of further structures; extensive spreads of midden and/or occupation debris; and a range of other features, including field systems and enclosures. A seasonal pond towards the SE of the scheduled area is likely to preserve important palaeoenvironmental evidence.

The scheduled area 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 is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the chronology, development, variety and functions of prehistoric settlement in the Bronze Age and earlier, and the dating and variations in form and burial practice of broadly contemporary burial monuments. The monument is an important component of the exceptionally rich archaeological landscape in the immediate vicinity of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. However, similar double roundhouses have been dated to the Bronze Age, as at Links of Noltland, Westray, and the burial mounds are also likely to date to the Bronze Age, suggesting that this site has high potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of post-Neolithic settlement in the World Heritage Area, and of the relationship between settlement and the ritual and funerary elements of this landscape. The southernmost burial mound is particularly important as a well-preserved example of an apparent disc barrow - a rare type of burial monument more commonly associated with ritual and funerary landscapes in Wessex. It has high potential to add to our understanding of differing forms of burial monument and practices during the Bronze Age. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the development and siting of prehistoric settlement and funerary monuments within the exceptionally important landscape of the World Heritage Area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Other information

RCAHMS records the monument as HY21SE 3 and 18.


Ballin-Smith, B and Petersen, G 2003, 'Brodgar, Stenness (Stenness parish), late neolithic settlement', Discovery Excav Scot 4, 102.

Buteux, S 1997, Settlements at Skaill, Deerness, Orkney. Excavations by Peter Gelling of the Prehistoric, Pictish, Viking and Later periods, 1963-1981. British Archaeological Reports BAR, 260.

Dockrill, S J 2007, Investigations in Sanday, Orkney. Volume 2: Tofts Ness, Sanday. An island landscape through 3000 years of prehistory. Kirkwall, The Orcadian Ltd.

Moore, H & Wilson, G 2011. Shifting Sands. Links of Noltland, Westray: Interim Report on Neolithic and Bronze Age Excavations, 2007-09. Historic Scotland Archaeology Report no 4. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1946, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v, Edinburgh, 263-4, nos 707, 709.

Thomas, F W L 1852, 'An account of some Celtic antiquities of Orkney, including the stones of Stenness, tumuli, Picts houses, with plans', Archaeologia 34, 98.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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