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Burgi Geo, broch 510m NNE of North Brough

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.7246 / 60°43'28"N

Longitude: -1.0128 / 1°0'45"W

OS Eastings: 453957

OS Northings: 1205018

OS Grid: HP539050

Mapcode National: GBR R0VD.8K8

Mapcode Global: XHF79.7PHP

Entry Name: Burgi Geo, broch 510m NNE of North Brough

Scheduled Date: 16 May 1934

Last Amended: 27 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2060

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Yell

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, and the remains of at least three ramparts and ditches. The broch is visible as a very large turf-covered mound within which small areas of masonry are exposed. The ramparts and ditches are visible mostly as low earthworks. The monument lies about 20m above sea level, on a low peninsula that protrudes north above the Bay of Brough. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The turf-covered mound stands at least 3m high and measures about 17m in diameter. Few of the broch's structural features are exposed, although a possible lintel stone is visible on the E side and possible internal wall cells are just visible on the S and NE upper surface of the mound. On the face of the cliff directly to the east of the broch, the remains of the structural wall of one of the ramparts are clearly visible, together with a clear section through the ditch in front of the rampart. Traces of the ramparts and ditches can be clearly identified to the north and northwest where a modern stone field boundary wall has been built over the outer rampart, and to the south and southeast running down to the coast. Traces of a low turf-covered bank run from an existing field boundary to the west towards the broch; these probably represent an earlier field boundary.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends to the mean high water mark to the southeast. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all field boundary walls and post-and-wire fences, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Despite coastal erosion of part of the rampart and ditch to the east of the broch, the surviving mound is in good overall condition and shows little sign of recent deterioration. It is highly likely that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved within and beneath the mound. The ramparts and outlying buildings suggest that this is a complex multi-phase monument, set in a landscape that preserves evidence for a long period of use. The erosion of the rampart and ditch in the cliff face reveals that the outer ramparts were built mainly of earth and rubble with drystone revetting. There is a strong likelihood that buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment are preserved. These may allow future researchers to date construction of the broch, and compare this with the dates of the rampart defences. In addition, the buried remains have considerable potential to enhance our understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is high potential for the recovery of significant assemblages of artefacts and ecofacts that could illuminate the diet, economy, and social status of the occupants and the extent to which this varied over time.

Contextual characteristics

Antiquarian reports suggest that there was vertical access from the interior of the broch to a sea cave immediately beneath it. This relationship with a natural subterranean feature has the potential to enhance our understanding of the function of brochs. Some other brochs, such as the Broch of Gurness in Orkney, have access to subterranean chambers and the arrangement at Burgi Geo may be a more unusual expression of this tradition, perhaps reflecting a desire to communicate with the underworld. Alternatively, and more prosaically, it may have acted as a storage area or provided an additional means of escape, supporting the interpretation of brochs as defensive.

One earlier account mentions that a barrow surmounted by a standing stone was located near the broch. Although this is no longer extant, remains of the barrow may survive below the surface.

This broch is one of over 130 known in Shetland. It has high potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains at Burgi Geo have the potential to help us address these questions and provide insight into the nature and use of these distinctive structures and the landscape immediately around them. The field banks in the vicinity may preserve evidence for land management that was contemporary with the broch, or may relate to later activity.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'Brough' on the Ordnance Survey first edition map.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age Shetland and the role and function of brochs. The monument offers high potential to study the relationship between the broch itself and the three ramparts, and to compare the use of the broch with that of a variety of features in the vicinity. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and reuse of brochs in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as Yell, Burgi Geo, HP50NW 2, Canmore ID 21. Shetland Amenity Trust Sites and Monuments Record records the Monument as Greenbank (Burgi Geo), MSN2192, PrefRef 2075.

References

Anderson, J 1873, 'Notice of the excavation of the brochs of Yarhouse, Brounaben, Bowermadden, Old Stirkoke and Dunbeath in Caithness; with remarks on the period of the brochs, and an appendix, containing a collected list of the brochs of Scotland, and early notices of many of them, with a map showing sites of brochs', Archaeologia Scotica: Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, v5, 180

Irvine, J T 1866, 'On the broch of Clickhimin, near Lerwick, Mainland of Shetland', Journal of the British Archaeological Association, v22, 369-75

Mackie, E W 2002, The roundhouses, brochs and wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700BC-AD500: architecture and material culture, Part 1: The Orkney and Shetland Isles. BAR British Series 342: Oxford, 56.

RCAHMS, 1946 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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