Scheduled Monument

Knap of Howar,housesSM90195

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house
Local Authority
Orkney Islands
Papa Westray
HY 48316 51811
348316, 1051811


The monument consists of the lower walls and foundations of two Neolithic houses and an area around them. The monument has been excavated and is laid out for visitors. It is protected to seaward by a modern coast wall, and is in the care of the Secretary of State.

The two houses are irregular oblongs on plan, and lie side-by-side, elongated NW-SE. The houses stand to a height of just over 1.6m and their entrances, which point to the NW, are intact to lintel height. They are linked by a short passage. The larger house to the SW, measures 12.5m by 8.0m externally and is 9.5m by 4.7m internally. It has upright stone partitions making it into two compartments, and traces of post-holes suggest it had a low-pitched roof, most likely thatched.

A hearth is located in the inner part of the house, as is a stone-built cupboard. The smaller house proved to be slightly later in date than its neighbour. It measures 9.2m by 5.0m externally and is 7.5m by 3.2m internally. It also has upright stone partitions which divide it into three compartments, stone-built cupboards and had a hearth. There are deposits of midden material to the S of the houses.

The area to be scheduled is that contained within the boundary fence and bounded to seaward by the modern seawall. It measures a maximum of 33m N-S by 40m, to include the houses and an area around in which deposits associated with the construction and use of the houses may be expected to survive, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance, and arguably of international importance, as the earliest upstanding domestic structures so far identified in northern Europe. The comparison between Knap of Howar and other, slightly later, Neolithic settlements such as Skara Brae probably indicates a considerable degree of variability over space as much as over time, and emphasises the paucity of the research base for Neolithic settlement studies. As a field monument it is unique. Unexcavated areas around the houses offer the possibility of further examination of the domestic and agricultural economy of the earliest Neolithic inhabitants of Orkney.



RCAHMS records the monument as HY 45 SE 1.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Knap of Howar

Find out more

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


There are no images available for this record, you may want to check Canmore for images relating to Knap of Howar,houses

There are no images available for this record.

Search Canmore

Printed: 16/10/2019 09:02