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North Roe

Quarry(S) (Period Unassigned)

Site Name North Roe

Classification Quarry(S) (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 296328

Site Number HU38SW 34

NGR HU 338 841

NGR Description Centred HU 338 841

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Northmavine
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland


Ground Survey (October 2007)

HU 338 841 In October 2007, a limited survey was carried out of further parts of North Roe, as part of a continued general survey of the area’s Neolithic felsite quarrying operations (‘The Felsite Industrial Complex of North Roe’). Previously (2004 and 2006), selected areas were surveyed and reported upon (DES 2006, 150). The area surveyed in 2007 was located immediately W of the Queina Waters lochs, on the southern side of the Burn of Springwells. This locale was selected for investigation, as 1) it is clearly marked on Phemister, Harvey and Sabine’s map of noticeable felsite dykes (1952: The Riebeckite-bearing Dykes of Shetland, Min. Mag. 29, 359–73), and 2) the campaigns of 2004 and 2006 clearly showed that most geological felsite dykes in North Roe are associated with anthropogenic debris, mostly from quarrying.

The 2007 Survey showed that the Queina Waters felsite dykes had also been exploited in prehistoric times. The easternmost of three dykes was associated with a small knapping floor, where a small stream had cut through the area’s extensive peat-cover. Small amounts of knapping debris were also found in connection

with the adjacent two dykes. In comparison with similar, but more substantial, locations at the Beorgs of Uyea and on Midfield, the Queina Waters sites included few artefacts, and axe rough-outs were rare, whereas flat flakes and slabs, possibly for Shetland knives, were relatively common. Unexpectedly, a small, wellexecuted

felsite scraper was recovered. It is in a form of felsite characterised as quartz-feldspar porphyry, and as the three main dykes in the area are in banded, spherulitic or riebeckite felsite, it is possible that the implement may have been brought into the Queina Waters area by Neolithic people moving between the North Roe felsite outcrops. Quartz-feldspar porphyry dykes are known W and NW of Queina Waters.

Field Visit (2010)

HU 340 850 – HU 340 858

As part of ongoing preparations for a future detailed investigation of the Neolithic quarrying of felsite in northern Shetland, the two main quarry zones (Beorgs of Uyea and Midfield near Ronas Hill) were revisited and compared. However, the main focus of this year’s survey was to find and inspect an extensive felsite dyke immediately S of Roer Water (Gilgordie Brogs), which had been identified on geological maps but not examined.

During the 2010 survey of the main quarry areas Dr Ballin found a completed, but unpolished, axehead rough-out of typical Neolithic type at the Beorgs of Uyea and a large rough-out for a Shetland knife at a workshop on the hill of Midfield. This, supported by observed differences in terms of the character of the two areas’ felsite waste products, suggests that at the Beorgs mainly axeheads were produced, and on Midfield the production focused on the manufacture of Shetland knives.

The felsite dyke at Gilgordie Brogs was located and it was possible to follow it for almost 1km. In many places the N–S trending dyke was up to 5m thick. In several places it had been ‘nibbled’ rather than extensively quarried and small workshops were observed along its entire length. Some poorly executed axehead rough-outs were found, but in general the production appeared to be rather expedient. It is possible that, while the two key quarry areas of the Beorgs and Midfield were specialized production sites focusing on axehead and knife manufacture, respectively, the area between those two sites, in the boggy areas around the many small lochs, may have been exploited in a more ad hoc and less specialized fashion. The remains of a small structure were noticed towards the N end the dyke, but it was not possible to determine the date or function of this building.

Torben Bjarke Ballin was accompanied during this survey by Professor Gabriel Cooney, The University of Dublin, and Dr Ditlev Mahler, The National Museum of Denmark.

T Bjarke Ballin 2010


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