Broch of Gurness, Orkney Scotland







The History of The Broch of Gurness

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The Broch of Gurness is a rare example of a well preserved iron age Broch village. Dating from 500 to 200BC the central round tower probably reached 10 meters (30ft). This was surrounded by thatched roofed houses. The settlement was surrounded by walls and two deep ditches.


Broch's are unique to Scotland and are classified as Atlantic round houses. Their origin and purpose has been much debated by archaeologists. The name Broch comes from the Scot word brough which meant fort and therefore Broch's were the fortresses of iron age chieftains. Archaeologists have argued though that many Broch's are not strategically placed and there is no archeological evidence for them being fortresses, so they were more likely status symbols for the local clan leader to live in. It may be that Broch's were not fortresses but they were certainly fortified and would have been places of refuged during times of danger.


Gurness was probably the most important settlement on Orkney 2000 years ago. The centre of the Broch is about 45 meters in diameter. The central round tower had double skinned dry stone walls and two storeys inside and reached 3.6 metres (11.8 ft) high and would have been occupied by the clan leader and his family. The roof of the tower would have been thatched and had a walkway around it. There were 2 hearths in the brooch and an underground stone cistern for fresh water. A set of steps lead down into the cistern and it is believed that these may have allowed the occupants access to the subterranean cistern for religious reasons pertaining to an iron age cult of the underworld.


Surrounding the central tower of the Broch were thatched dwellings for about 40 families and the village was surrounded by the outer defences. There was one entrance to the Broch via a causeway across the outer ditch through a wide gate.


The chronological demise of the Broch of Gurness is uncertain. Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were excavated from Gurness lending weight to the theory that the King of Orkney submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD. Around 100AD the Broch was abandoned and its defensive ditches filled in. It seems to have been used as a Pictish settlement up until around the 5th century AD.


Where Is The Broch of Gurness?


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Coordinates: 59.122°N 3.078°W

Coordinates: 59.122, -3.078

 

 

 


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