The monument comprises the remains of a prehistoric stone row, comprising three large, upright, earth-fast boulders (orthostats), aligned north to south and extending a distance of some 17m in total. Stone rows probably represent ritual or ceremonial monuments and are likely to date to the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, sometime between about 2500 and 1000 BC. This example is located at around 30m above sea level on improved grazing land, with commanding views over St Magnus Bay and Esha Ness to the north.
The area to be scheduled is rectangular on plan, measuring 20m by 7m and aligned N-S. It includes the stone row and an area around the three stones within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from this scheduling are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence to the immediate east of the monument, to allow for its maintenance.
Statement of National Importance
The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:
The three orthostats seem to be ordered by size (largest to smallest) from south to north. The southernmost stone stands approximately 1.4m high, the middle stone 1.2m high and the northernmost 0.75m high. The orthostats are fairly similar in width. They seem to have been roughly shaped, with the southern and northern stones tapering slightly towards the top, while the middle stone is squarer in shape. The bases of the orthostats were placed in pits and supported by packing stones, some of which can be seen today.
The monument is positioned below a large natural rock outcrop to the immediate east, which obscures the views eastwards. The orientation and size order of the stone row, however, draw the eye northwards over St Magnus Bay, and its alignment with Esha Ness, some 20 km away, suggests this may have influenced the location and position of the row.
This stone row has survived well in a relatively stable landscape, which is now used for grazing. The monument has not been excavated and good evidence for its construction and for activities related to its use is likely to be preserved beneath the stones and in their immediate vicinity. As with other stone rows, its location and alignment is likely to be a significant factor, not only in relation to other monuments and natural features in the landscape, but possibly also to celestial bodies and events. The buried deposits underneath and in the immediate vicinity of the upright stones could help us to understand more about the activities which took place at ritual monuments of this type, as well as the landscape and environment at the time of its construction and use and after it was abandoned.
Stone rows are part of a wider group of monumental stone structures used for religious ceremony or ritual activity during the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. Both single and multiple rows of stones are recorded. Stone rows are a relatively rare type of monument, but they are likely to have been used in similar ways to other prehistoric ritual and ceremonial monuments, such as single standing stones, stone circles and cairns. Approximately 60 stone rows have been recorded in Scotland, but less than 10 are known in the Northern Isles. They tend to survive in the uplands of northern Scotland, on islands along the west coast and in Argyll and Bute. The survival of an apparent outlier in Shetland is therefore all the more interesting. This example is one of a type of stone row which has only a handful of orthostats and is generally formed of small boulders. Obviously, it is possible that there were more orthostats originally, forming a longer alignment, but no other stones have been recorded at this site in antiquity.
Prehistoric stone settings of various types have been shown to mark or relate to significant parts of the landscape, such as route-ways, views and natural landmarks, including hills and outcrops. The apparent alignment of this stone row with the land mass at Esha Ness may be significant. Researchers have suggested that these alignments often coincide with lunar and solar activity, but this has not yet been proved at Crawton.
The Crawton stone row is also interesting because of its proximity to a broadly contemporary settlement some 650m to the WSW, indicating that there was probably a significant presence here during prehistory.
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 ceremonial and ritual practices that accompany and complement prehistoric settlement and agricultural exploitation in the Northern Isles. It has much to tell us about how these monuments were constructed and their function, particularly their relationship with the landscape and their association with celestial and lunar events. This monument survives in good condition and the likelihood of buried deposits being preserved beneath and around the orthostats adds to its importance given that this is a relatively rare class of monument.