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Brough Head, broch and settlement 295m south east of Skitpow, Eastshore

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland South, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 59.8846 / 59°53'4"N

Longitude: -1.2834 / 1°17'0"W

OS Eastings: 440211

OS Northings: 1111265

OS Grid: HU402112

Mapcode National: GBR R25M.4LT

Mapcode Global: XHD4H.PTN6

Entry Name: Brough Head, broch and settlement 295m SE of Skitpow, Eastshore

Scheduled Date: 19 June 1934

Last Amended: 12 July 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3700

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch; Secular: house

Location: Dunrossness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland South

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a multi-period settlement site, including: a broch of Iron Age date built between 500 BC and AD 200; the remains of an outer rampart enclosing the elevated area around the broch; and a series of earlier and later structures and archaeological deposits indicating that this headland was a focus for settlement from the second millennium BC to the 19th century. The W side of the broch is visible as a large turf-covered mound standing about 3m high, with the broch's internal wall face exposed. The E side of the broch has been affected by coastal erosion. The mound now measures about 12m N-S by 7m transversely, but the broch was originally about 19m in diameter within walls 4.4m thick. A scarp slope standing up to 2m high indicates the position of an outer rampart enclosing a sub-circular area 40m in diameter, now open on the E side. Small-scale excavations have sampled buried midden deposits beneath and adjacent to the broch. These, together with a variety of low earthworks, suggest that this settlement was perhaps almost as extensive as those at Jarlshof and Scatness. The monument stands less than 10m above sea level, on a rocky headland at the mouth of the Pool of Virkie, 4km north of Sumburgh Head. There are long views out to sea and along the coast to the south. The monument was last scheduled in 1975 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 post-and-wire fences and modern gates 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

The broch itself is subject to serious coastal erosion, but represents only one part of a complex and extensive prehistoric and later settlement, most of which is in good and stable condition.

The surviving parts of the western circuit of the broch are sufficient to indicate its original total dimensions and character. The remains include a probable first floor gallery, visible above a length of the inner wall face. Remains of the internal broch courtyard and the broch's eastern wall have been damaged by coastal erosion. Small-scale excavations have demonstrated that the broch was built on top of midden deposits: a deposit late in this sequence gave a radiocarbon date of around 1610-1268 BC, in the middle Bronze Age, but settlement here could have begun much earlier. Midden deposits also accumulated outside the broch after its construction. A deposit early in this midden sequence gave a radiocarbon date of about 50 BC to AD 230, while another deposit towards the middle of the sequence was dated to about AD 640-890. Significant dilapidation of the broch only began after this date.

There has also been limited excavation of a stone structure with two radial stone walls sited immediately inside the broch's W wall. These remains are part of a wheelhouse, erected later than the broch, but probably before its abandonment and decay. The broch's outer rampart, still visible as an earthwork scarp, encloses an area immediately west and north of the broch. Coastal erosion at its northern corner has revealed a substantial dry stone revetment. Parch marks visible some 60m northwest of the broch indicate the position of rectangular structures; these can only be dated broadly to between AD 900 and AD 1850. The upstanding roofless remains of 19th-century buildings and yards reflect the most recent use of this headland.

Researchers believe that this monument preserves evidence for a very long-lasting and extensive settlement, in which the broch may only represent a brief phase. Despite the coastal erosion, much of the archaeology of this site survives buried beneath the ground surface and not yet recorded. Future investigation may allow researchers to understand more fully the character of occupation in different periods, to analyse evidence for the development sequence, assessing the duration of settlement at different times and whether it was continuous or intermittent. There is also potential for researchers to refine the dating for the construction, occupation and disuse of the broch and to compare it with the outer rampart and other potential structures. The buried remains have very considerable potential to enhance understanding of the daily lives of the people who occupied the site over an extended period. There is high potential for the recovery 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.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of around 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 here have the potential to help us address these questions and provide insight into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them.

This broch is particularly interesting and unusual in that it lies on a headland with a long settlement history. In particular, there is high potential for this settlement, with its wide range of structures and deposits known to be rich in artefacts and ecofacts, to be compared with those known from similarly long-lived and extensive settlements at Jarlshof and Scatness, which are sited only 1.8km to the SSW and 1.4km to the WSW respectively.

Associative characteristics

The site is marked on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map and is labelled '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 Bronze Age and Iron Age Shetland, the role and function of brochs there, and the relationship of brochs to earlier and later settlements. The broch is particularly interesting because it stands on top of Bronze Age remains and its site continued to be occupied for most of the first millennium AD. This headland has been a favoured location for settlement over many centuries and its archaeology offers significant potential to study changes in building style, material culture, economy and agriculture over an extended time period. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement archaeology in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as HU41SW 4. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN619 (PrefRef 619).

References

Carter, S P, McCullagh, R P J, and MacSween, A, 1995 'The Iron Age in Shetland; excavations at five sites threatened by coastal erosion', PSAS, 125, 447-64, 478-80.

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. 79.

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. 27.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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