Ancient Monuments

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Lunabister, broch 50m west of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.931 / 59°55'51"N

Longitude: -1.326 / 1°19'33"W

OS Eastings: 437775

OS Northings: 1116415

OS Grid: HU377164

Mapcode National: GBR R22H.93H

Mapcode Global: XHD49.4NG2

Entry Name: Lunabister, broch 50m W of

Scheduled Date: 18 September 1934

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2078

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, and the remains of two ramparts and associated ditches. The broch is visible as a very large turf-covered mound, standing at least 2m high and measuring about 18m in diameter, with a section of external wall exposed on the east. The ramparts and ditches are visible as low earthworks. The monument lies about 30m above sea level, on the summit of a low hill. 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. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all field 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

This is a well-preserved broch mound with evidence for intact drystone masonry surviving to 2m in height, with a pronounced batter visible on the E side. It is very probable that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved within and beneath the mound. Given the presence of the ramparts and ditches, this is a complex and potentially multi-phase monument. There is a high 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 understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is potential for the recovery of a range 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

This broch is one of over 130 brochs 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 other types of Iron Age settlement and the wider landscape. It is possible that the freshwater Spiggie Loch and the Loch of Brow, now separated by a moss, were once joined and made up a voe. If so, the site would originally have had a good view of the S end of the voe.

From Lunabister broch, you can see the island broch in the Loch of Brow. The monument therefore has the specific potential to enhance understanding of the relationship between two geographically close and inter-visible 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 Lunabister have high 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.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'Brough (site of)' 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 rampart defences, and to compare the use of this broch with that of nearby brochs and other 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



RCAHMS record the site as Lunabister, HU31NE6, Canmore ID 539. Shetland Amenity Trust Sites and Monuments Record records the Monument as Lunabister, MSN601, PrefRef 601.


Fojut, N 1982, Towards a Geography of Shetland Brochs, Glasgow Archaeological Journal 1982, 48.

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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