Abstract A large-scale shell-model calculation on 56Fe including positive parity states with spins up to J = 15 shows that several states in the yrast region may be of a particular nature. These states can be locd in groups of which the gamma decay and quadrupole moments show a collective behaviour. The signature of each group is the f 7 2 hole structure. This structure is coupled to a definite J hole and T hole with the spin J hole being as large as possible. The level density above the yrast region turns out to be largely independent of J.