Scheduled Monument

Meishie o' Stanes, two cairns 120m N of Collafirth PierSM3568

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
20/12/1974
Last Date Amended
07/06/2012
Type
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain)
Local Authority
Shetland Islands
Parish
Northmaven
NGR
HU 35779 84366
Coordinates
435779, 1184366

Description

The monument comprises two cairns of the Neolithic or Bronze Age, built probably between 4000 and 1000 BC. They are visible as two circular spreads of stones in close proximity to one another. The northernmost is around 14m in diameter, while the other is less well defined and about 12m in diameter. The cairns stand some 20m above sea level on a south-facing hillside, one above the other, with extensive views to the south and east, especially across the Voe of Brig. 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.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The surface remains of both cairns have been disturbed, but their form is still discernible and important archaeological information is likely to survive beneath the surface. The close proximity of the two cairns is of considerable interest as this is rare in the area and may indicate that this particular location was a focal point for burial over a significant period of time.

The excavation of similar cairns elsewhere in Scotland has demonstrated that round cairns were often used to cover and mark human burials and are late Neolithic or Bronze Age in origin, dating most commonly from the late third millennium BC to the early second millennium BC. Burial cairns of this type may incorporate or overlie several graves or pits containing cist settings, skeletal remains in the form of cremations or inhumations, pottery and stone tools. Archaeologists often find additional burials within cairns, away from the central burial and it is possible that one or more additional burials survive here. These deposits can help us understand more about the practice and significance of burial and commemoration of the dead at specific times in prehistory. They may also help us to understand the changing structure of society in the area. In addition, the cairn is likely to overlie and seal a buried land surface that could provide evidence of the immediate environment before the monument was constructed. Botanical remains, including pollen or charred plant material, may survive within archaeological deposits deriving from the cairns' construction and use. This evidence can help us build up a picture of climate, vegetation and agriculture in the area before and during construction and use of the cairn.

Contextual characteristics

Cairns are well represented in Shetland, but researchers have highlighted the importance of Shetland's circular stone-built cairns. Across Scotland, cairns seem to be positioned for visibility within their landscape setting, often specifically to maximise their visual impact, and they are often inter-visible. The position and significance of these cairns in relation to other prehistoric monuments is likely to be significant and merits future detailed analysis. There is a group of three chambered cairns 1.1km to the NNE and a single chambered cairn 5km to the west. Comparison of these cairns with other prehistoric sites in the area means that this monument has the potential to further our understanding of ritual and funerary site location and practice and to enhance understanding of the structure of early prehistoric society and economy.

Associative characteristics

Like many of Shetland's prehistoric monuments, these two cairns have become the focus of local stories. The word 'meishie' is the name of a traditional Shetland basket used for carrying grain. According to local legend, a giant was carrying a 'meishie' full of stones when the basket broke at this place leaving it strewn with rock. The association of cairns and giants is quite common in NW Shetland: another local cairn is called the 'Giant's grave'.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, particularly the design and construction of burial monuments, the nature of burial practices, and their significance in prehistoric and later society. Buried evidence from cairns can also enhance our knowledge about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape and the meaning and importance of death and burial in prehistoric life.

References

Bibliography

Further information

RCAHMS records the site as HU38SE 1.

References

Feachem, R W, 1963 A Guide to Prehistoric Scotland, 85. London.

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

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

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Printed: 12/12/2018 09:27