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Branchiclett, prehistoric settlement 265m SSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland Central, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.1006 / 60°6'2"N

Longitude: -1.3368 / 1°20'12"W

OS Eastings: 436977

OS Northings: 1135297

OS Grid: HU369352

Mapcode National: GBR R211.B47

Mapcode Global: XHD3J.0D21

Entry Name: Branchiclett, prehistoric settlement 265m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 28 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13051

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Lerwick

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland Central

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a conjoined group of four prehistoric houses and associated features. The settlement is probably Neolithic or Bronze Age in date (from some time between 3000 to 1000 BC). The monument is visible as the partly turf-covered banks of four circular or sub-circular buildings, which vary in internal diameter from around 6m to 9m. The banks obscure the surviving lower courses of drystone walls. The southern edge of the settlement is defined by a line of natural rock outcrop which has been reinforced with stone walling. The monument occupies a small coastal promontory, currently used as grazing land, with the houses roughly aligned across the neck of the promontory. The settlement is located at approximately 10m above sea level at the north end of a bay overlooking West and East Burra to the south and the North Atlantic to the southwest.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan and includes 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.

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The four conjoined buildings are in relatively good condition overall and their undulating, turf-covered interiors suggest that significant archaeological deposits may survive, sealed by infilling of the houses after they were abandoned. The individual footprints of the houses are clear to see. It appears that the four buildings were physically connected to each other, with adjacent buildings sharing a common wall, which suggests that the site may contain an interesting development sequence. This type of settlement differs from the individual house sites that are much more common in Shetland and seems to represent a variation in prehistoric building form. The monument therefore has the potential to tell us much about construction techniques, the development of domestic architecture, and the functions of conjoined buildings in the prehistoric period. The buried remains may allow future researchers to date the construction and period of use of the settlement. There is potential for the recovery of a range of artefacts and ecofacts within the interiors of the buildings and in the ground immediately surrounding the settlement. These could enhance our understanding of the daily lives of the people who occupied the settlement and provide important information about domestic and agricultural life.

Contextual characteristics

This type of prehistoric settlement is broadly similar to others in Shetland, but it is distinctive in using the local landform to separate land to seaward from the more fertile ground to the immediate north. Defence may have been a factor in this choice of location (just above the low sea cliff and across a promontory), but the coastal position also allowed the settlement to take advantage of the shelter afforded by the bay and gave good views south and westwards.

There are a number of other interesting features in the near vicinity, including a substantial burnt mound about 70m to the northwest, several clearance cairns also to the northwest, and other possibly contemporary linear features likely to represent the remains of field boundaries and enclosures. This monument is therefore an important element of a possibly contemporary relict landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The four conjoined buildings are in relatively good condition overall and their undulating, turf-covered interiors suggest that significant archaeological deposits may survive, sealed by infilling of the houses after they were abandoned. The individual footprints of the houses are clear to see. It appears that the four buildings were physically connected to each other, with adjacent buildings sharing a common wall, which suggests that the site may contain an interesting development sequence. This type of settlement differs from the individual house sites that are much more common in Shetland and seems to represent a variation in prehistoric building form. The monument therefore has the potential to tell us much about construction techniques, the development of domestic architecture, and the functions of conjoined buildings in the prehistoric period. The buried remains may allow future researchers to date the construction and period of use of the settlement. There is potential for the recovery of a range of artefacts and ecofacts within the interiors of the buildings and in the ground immediately surrounding the settlement. These could enhance our understanding of the daily lives of the people who occupied the settlement and provide important information about domestic and agricultural life.

Contextual characteristics

This type of prehistoric settlement is broadly similar to others in Shetland, but it is distinctive in using the local landform to separate land to seaward from the more fertile ground to the immediate north. Defence may have been a factor in this choice of location (just above the low sea cliff and across a promontory), but the coastal position also allowed the settlement to take advantage of the shelter afforded by the bay and gave good views south and westwards.

There are a number of other interesting features in the near vicinity, including a substantial burnt mound about 70m to the northwest, several clearance cairns also to the northwest, and other possibly contemporary linear features likely to represent the remains of field boundaries and enclosures. This monument is therefore an important element of a possibly contemporary relict landscape.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular prehistoric settlement, agriculture and land-use in Shetland. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the structural techniques used to build houses and changes in settlement types over time. There is high potential to study how this site fitted into a landscape rich in prehistoric remains. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of prehistoric domestic architecture and settlement both in Shetland and Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as HU33NE 7. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN895.

References

Hedges, J W, 1984, 'Gordon Parry's West Burra survey', in Glasgow Archaeol J, 11, 43, 54.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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