Prehistoric linear boundary on Puffin Island


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010175

Date first listed: 08-Feb-1995


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric linear boundary on Puffin Island
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This copy shows the entry on 10-Dec-2018 at 17:27:02.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Tresco

National Grid Reference: SV 88154 13429


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social development of early communities. Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands' settlement. The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post- medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post- medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard for the nation's shipping in the western approaches. The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of documentation, including several recent surveys. The early linear boundaries on the Isles of Scilly were constructed from the Bronze Age to the early medieval period (c.2000 BC-AD 1066): closer dating within that period may be provided by their visible relationships to other classes of monument, or by their relationship with an earlier recorded sea level. They consist of stone walls, up to 3m wide and 1.1m high but usually much slighter, and are formed of heaped rubble, often incorporating edge- or end-set slabs called orthostats. Linear boundaries served a variety of functions. These included separating land regularly cultivated from that less intensively used, separating land held by different social groups, or delineating areas set aside for ceremonial, religious and funerary activities. Linear boundaries are often associated with other forms of contemporary field system. The Isles of Scilly contain examples of an associaton, rarely encountered elswhere, whereby certain linear boundaries directly link several cairns, entrance graves and cists in some groups of prehistoric funerary monuments. Linear boundaries along the coastal margin of the islands are often indistinguishable from the truncated upper walls of early field systems whose remaining extent has been destroyed by the rising sea level. Linear boundaries form a substantial part of the evidence of early field systems recorded on the Isles of Scilly. They provide significant insights into the physical and social organisation of past landscapes and form an important element in the existing landscape. Even where truncated by the rising sea level, their surviving lengths provide important evidence for the wider contemporary context within which other nationally important monuments at higher altitudes were constructed. A substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

This linear boundary on Puffin Island has survived well and shows the importance of the natural topography in influencing prehistoric land divisions. The monument constitutes valuable evidence for the nature and former extent of prehistoric land division in the pre-submergence landscape of the Isles of Scilly, providing the broader context in which the nearby prehistoric field systems and funerary cairns of Samson and the Samson Flats were built and demonstrating well the nature and organisation of land use among prehistoric communities.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a prehistoric linear boundary situated on the north west part of the central ridge across the small uninhabited Puffin Island, between Samson, Bryher and Tresco in the north western Isles of Scilly. The linear boundary survives as a wall up to 0.75m high and 1m wide, composed of contiguous edge-set slabs and boulders, up to 1.5m long and largely turf-covered. The wall extends for 18m north west-south east along the ridge linking the north west and central outcrops of the raised spine of the island. At its south east end, beside the rock face of the central outcrop, the wall curves round to the north east, extending for a further 8m down the upper north east slope of the island. Although this linear boundary is now located on a small island, the physical environment in which it was built was a small knoll in a broad basin on the north west part of a single large island that formerly united much of the area of the present Isles of Scilly archipelago from St Mary's northwards. The gradual sinking of the land since this boundary was constructed has led to the fragmentation of that island into the present scatter of large and small islands and rocks. Broadly contemporary field systems survive along the edges of the basin, on the present coastal margin of Samson, from 420m to the south west, and on the intertidal Samson Flats, from 430m to the SSW. Prior to the submergence of the intervening land, this linear boundary is considered to have formed an element of that formerly more extensive field system. Rising from the south western side of the basin and within sight of this monument, the spine of North Hill, Samson, contains a linear cemetery of large, broadly contemporary funerary cairns, from 460m to the WSW.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 15398

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
Thomas, C, Exploration of a Drowned Landscape, (1985)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7068, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7078, (1988)
consulted 1994, Parkes, C., AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7069, 7076, 7642, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 81 NE Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing