Ancient Monuments

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Toab, broch north of The Knowe

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 59.887 / 59°53'13"N

Longitude: -1.3066 / 1°18'23"W

OS Eastings: 438910

OS Northings: 1111527

OS Grid: HU389115

Mapcode National: GBR R24L.S08

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.DR99

Entry Name: Toab, broch N of The Knowe

Scheduled Date: 17 January 2001

Last Amended: 5 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM9353

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. It is visible as an earthwork monument and survives in a field of improved pasture at approximately 30m above sea level. It is located on a neck of land at the south end of Shetland mainland, overlooking Bay of Quendale to the west and Pool of Virkie to the east. The monument was first scheduled in 2001 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle on plan, 52m in diameter, 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 post-and-wire fencing, drystone walling and a small shed.

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 for the exterior walling, entrance and interior features. The undulating nature of the ground in the interior suggests that further buried deposits survive here. The overall, circular footprint of the broch is clear to see and measures approximately 32m in diameter. A break in the northern arc of the broch wall probably represents the site of the entrance. It is likely that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved within and beneath the mound. 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 the construction, the period of use and abandonment of the broch. 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 settlements and the wider landscape. This broch occupies an interesting landscape position as it overlooks the Sumburgh Head peninsula to the south and is inter-visible with two other major brochs, at Old Scatness and Brough Head respectively. The monument therefore has considerable potential to help us understand the relationship between several 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 Toab have high potential to help us address these questions and to provide further insights into the nature and use of these distinctive structures and the landscape immediately around them.

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. Excavations at the nearby broch of Old Scatness have amply demonstrated the quality, complexity and depth of archaeological remains which can be expected to survive. The monument offers high potential to study the relationship between this broch and several similar, broadly contemporary monuments in the surrounding landscape. 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 HU31SE 446. Shetland Amenity Trust Sites and Monuments Record records the monument as MSN5924.


Dockrill, S, 2002, 'Brochs, economy and power', in Ballin Smith, B and Banks, I, In the shadow of the brochs: the Iron Age in Scotland, A celebration of the work of Dr Euan Mackie on the Iron Age of Scotland. Stroud. 155

Dockrill, S J, Turner, V E and Bond, J M, 1998, 'Old Scatness/Jarlshof Environs Project (Dunrossness parish), broch; multi-period settlement mound', Discovery Excav Scot. 84

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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