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Burgar Stack, broch 225m north east of Stackhoull

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.8075 / 60°48'27"N

Longitude: -0.8791 / 0°52'44"W

OS Eastings: 461088

OS Northings: 1214366

OS Grid: HP610143

Mapcode National: GBR S055.HS0

Mapcode Global: XHF6Y.ZMK5

Entry Name: Burgar Stack, broch 225m NE of Stackhoull

Scheduled Date: 31 May 1934

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2086

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Unst

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 two curving banks and ditches that enclose it on the landward side. The broch is visible as a substantial turf-covered mound standing 2m high. No masonry is exposed but the broch tower probably measures about 17m in diameter. The inner bank is positioned very close to the broch, and although it is clearest on the west (landward) side, it appears to continue around the broch to the north. The outer bank lies only slightly beyond the inner bank, extending across the headland for about 48m to the west of the broch. The monument lies about 15m above sea level, on a rocky promontory overlooking the beach at the head of Burra Firth. The monument was last scheduled in 1996 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. The scheduled area specifically excludes the upstanding remains of a post-and-wire fence to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Although the broch has partially collapsed, the mound survives in excellent condition and shows no sign of recent disturbance. It is very probable that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses, including walls and galleries, are preserved and protected beneath the tumble that forms the mound. This means that the broch has excellent archaeological potential, including potential for occupation deposits containing artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time. It is highly likely that the remains could enhance understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. Investigation may also allow future researchers to date the construction of the broch and compare this with the dates of the rampart defences. These ramparts are interesting for the way they are positioned very close to the broch itself. Previous researchers noted that a stone core was exposed in the cliff face at the south end of one of the ramparts, probably the outer of the two, suggesting that these structures themselves have some complexity. There is the potential to investigate their structure, the deposits filling the associated ditches and deposits sealed beneath the ramparts. This could enable researchers to understand more about the contemporary environment and land use before and during the occupation of the broch.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of around 130 known in Shetland. It has the 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 here have high potential to help us address these questions and may provide insight into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. There is also the potential to compare the outer defences to those of many other brochs, including that at Underhoull.

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 has an interesting location, less than 5km from the north tip of Unst, and offers potential to study the relationship between the broch and two ramparts. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development, function and placement of brochs in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as HP61SW 10. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN360 (PrefRef 360).

References

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. 58.

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. 131.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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