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Brough of Stoal, fort 895m ENE of North Aywick

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.5656 / 60°33'56"N

Longitude: -1.0069 / 1°0'24"W

OS Eastings: 454544

OS Northings: 1187309

OS Grid: HU545873

Mapcode National: GBR R0VT.C7F

Mapcode Global: XHF82.9PWM

Entry Name: Brough of Stoal, fort 895m ENE of North Aywick

Scheduled Date: 19 June 1934

Last Amended: 27 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2085

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Yell

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a fort represented by three large ramparts, separated by ditches, that block the neck of a narrow headland, together with the remains of a stone structure on the seaward (SSE) end of the headland. The ramparts are visible as massive turf-covered earth banks, with an average height of 2.1m and a maximum height of 2.7m. The structure at the seaward end of the headland is visible as a low, curving bank in which several large stones are visible. It may be part of a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200. The monument stands 20m above sea level, in a spectacular cliff top location, on the E coast of Yell. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

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. On the NW side, the scheduled area extends up to but excludes a post-and-wire fence.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Researchers have debated how to classify this site. It has been labelled a 'promontory fort' because of the ramparts, which are striking because of their unusual scale, but cross the headland where it is only 19m wide. However, it has also been suggested that the structure at the seaward end may be the remains of a broch, although its character cannot be confirmed without excavation and it might represent another type of later prehistoric structure, such as a block house. Most of the monument survives in a stable condition, though the remains at the cliff top are vulnerable to coastal erosion. In addition to the upstanding features, it is clear that buried archaeological deposits survive that can enhance understanding of the monument's date, form and occupation. There is high potential to ascertain the construction of the ramparts and ditches, and determine whether the banks are entirely constructed of earth, or whether some show evidence for a revetment or stone core. Investigation of the structure may allow future researchers to date its construction and compare this with the date or dates of the rampart defences. The buried remains have considerable potential to enhance understanding of the use and function of coastal Iron Age sites and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is high potential for the survival of artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the occupants and the extent to which this varied over time. There may be botanical evidence buried beneath the banks that can allow researchers to reconstruct the nature of the landscape immediately before the site was enclosed and during its use.

Contextual characteristics

This monument resembles a promontory fort, but may contain the remains of one of Shetland's brochs which were often protected by ramparts. It has high potential to enhance our understanding of the functions of forts and brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape. Forts and brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as representing the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains here have high potential to help us address these questions and may provide insight into the nature and use of defended structures and the landscape immediately around them. There is potential to compare the outer defences to those at coastal brochs such as Burland on the E coast of Mainland, and to the defences of brochs slightly further inland, such as Underhoull on Unst, which are surrounded by very substantial banks and ditches. However, the stone structure at Brough of Stoal can also be compared with block houses, such as that at Ness of Burgi which occupies a similarly dramatic coastal location.

Associative characteristics

The ramparts are depicted on the Ordnance Survey first edition map, which labels the monument 'Brough, Site of'.

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 enclosed settlements. The monument offers potential to study the relationship between a defensive structure and three unusually massive ramparts, and may preserve a development sequence. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the character and use of Iron Age defended coastal settlements in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as HU58NW 1. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2287 (Prefref 2170).

References

Lamb, R G, 1980 Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles, Brit Archaeol Rep, BAR British, vol.79. Oxford. 72, 83

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. 119.

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. 161-2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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