Benie Hoose

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Benie Hoose
Benie Hoose is located in Shetland
Benie Hoose
Benie Hoose location in Whalsay, Shetland
LocationShetland, Scotland
Coordinates60°22′00″N 0°56′20″W / 60.366721°N 0.938896°W / 60.366721; -0.938896Coordinates: 60°22′00″N 0°56′20″W / 60.366721°N 0.938896°W / 60.366721; -0.938896
BuiltNeolithic age

Benie Hoose, also Bunyie Hoose, is a Neolithic site in the parish of Nesting, northeastern Whalsay, in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. It is located approximately 100 yards (91 m) to the northwest of the Standing Stones of Yoxie, and about 140 metres (460 ft) southeast of the Pettigarths Field Cairns.[1][2] Benie Hoose and Yoxie demonstrate characteristics of 'paired houses'.[3] It was excavated in 1954–1955 by Charles S. T. Calder who gave the items to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in 1955–1956.[1] Furthermore, its close proximity to Yoxie indicates that Druid priests probably lived in the house and performed ceremonies at the stones.[4] OS (NKB) visited the site on 30 May 1968.[1] The one-room[5] site measures 24.4 by 12.8 metres (80 ft × 42 ft),[6] and features a horned forecourt.[7]


The Benie Hoose is laid out in the form of a figure of eight, to the southeast of Pettigarths Field, about 30m from the lower hill slopes of Gamla Vord. The front elevation is curved and with a courtyard in horn shape. It has no similarity with other dwelling units (70 units seen here) but has identity with the Yoxie monument. The main block is of 80 feet (24 m) length and 40 feet (12 m) width while the forecourt is 32 feet (9.8 m) wide. The main block is set towards the hill. The walls are made of dry stones of 4 metres (13 ft) thickness. The large number of tools and querns found here attests to the domestic nature of the Benie Hoose. There is a 4 metres (13 ft) passage leading from the entrance. The complex has an elaborate drainage system which ensured that the interior remained dry. The floor of the chamber had stone flooring. The forecourt is D shaped and is conjectured as an animal pen. No stone made furniture was found which has led to the conclusion that the furniture must have been made of wood.[8][9]


Calder unearthed an unusual quantity of tools and querns, indicating that there was a dwelling here, possibly a vicary, as 'Benie' is believed to be a local term for 'Bone House' or graveyard or a transliteration of the Old Norse 'Boenhus', which means 'a house of prayer' or chapel.[1] Artifacts include 33 trough querns, and 1,800 implements such as axes, hammer stones, hammer pounders, picks, pot lids, pot shards, steatite pot handle, and a steatite spindle whorl.[7]

Based on architectural details and its location with respect to Yoxie, a nearby site, it is conjectured that the Benie Hoose was the residence of the priests who were associated with performing worship at the temple at Yoxie.[9]


Earlier archaeological explorations carried out at about 140 metres (460 ft) north west of Benie House during 1936 and 1938 have revealed two Pettigarths Field Cairns; the first one is on the south of the site which is square in shape measuring 6 metres (20 ft) with a circular entry of 2 metres (6 ft 7 in), the other carn is a smaller circular one of 4.5 metres (15 ft) diameter with cist in the shape of a rectangle. Both are inferred as tombs of the Late Stone and Early Bronze Ages.[2][9]


  1. ^ a b c d "Whalsay, Benie Hoose". Scotland's Places. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b Castleden, Rodney (1992). Neolithic Britain: New Stone Age Sites of England, Scotland, and Wales. Routledge. p. 335. ISBN 978-0-415-05845-2. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  3. ^ Downes, Jane; Lamb, Raymond (2000). Prehistoric houses at Sumburgh in Shetland: excavations at Sumburgh Airport 1967–74. Oxbow Books. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-84217-003-8. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  4. ^ Miers, Richenda (1 September 2006). Scotland's Highlands & Islands. New Holland Publishers. p. 299. ISBN 978-1-86011-340-6. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  5. ^ MacSween, Ann; Sharp, Mick (1 May 1990). Prehistoric Scotland. New Amsterdam. p. 30. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  6. ^ Owen, Olwyn; Lowe, Christopher (1999). Kebister: The Four-thousand-year-old Story of One Shetland Township. Society Antiquaries Scotland. pp. 178–. ISBN 978-0-903903-14-1. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b Laing, Lloyd Robert (1974). Orkney and Shetland: an archaeological guide. David & Charles. pp. 70, 71. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
  8. ^ Rodney Castleden (1992). Neolithic Britain: New Stone Age Sites of England, Scotland, and Wales. Routledge. pp. 330, 335-. ISBN 978-0-415-05845-2. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  9. ^ a b c "Excavations In Whalsay, Shetland, 1954-5" (pdf). Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 2 February 2013.