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Old Scatness Broch and Jarlshof Environs

Old Scatness AP

The present programme of investigation at Old Scatness began at Easter 1995 with integrated topographical, earth resistance and magnetic surveys. Excavation began in the summer of 1995, and, accompanied by the survey, has been reported on in a series of interim reports, a volume of papers and numerous other publications of specialist papers, as well as at conferences, day schools and evening meetings of local societies and other bodies throughout Shetland, the UK and further afield.

The Old Scatness excavation and associated survey has an integrated and multi-disciplinary research programme at its very core.

The research programme may be summarised within the following themes:

Site Development and Chronology

The establishment of an integrated absolute chronology for Old Scatness is seen as being essential in order to provide a framework for the excavated data and to allow interpretation and understanding of questions surrounding the site’s past inhabitants, economic development and cultural identity.

Cultural Change

The provision of an absolute chronology will facilitate the accurate dating of the structural and depositional sequence and allow factors such as cultural change to be viewed within a more precise chronological framework. Cultural interfaces such as that between Pictish and Viking deposits provide the opportunity to review questions of native/incomer interaction, absorption or replacement.

Economy, Landscape/Seascape Interaction

The understanding of the economic exploitation of both the surrounding landscape for arable agriculture, animal husbandry and other economic resources (such as peat for fuel) together with the sea and seashore, is vital in understanding the site’s sustainability.

Economic Continuity, Change and Intensification

Economic exploitation when viewed within a long chronological framework allows themes such as continuity or changes in practice or intensification in production to be measured.

Formation of Archaeological Deposits & Sediments

This theme is a subset of Economy, Landscape/Seascape Interaction and is also interlocked with Manufacture, Trade and Contact. An integrated research programme examining magnetic signatures, carbonised and fossilised organic components, phosphate and soil micromorphology is enabling an understanding of fuel exploitation, the identification of surfaces within structures, the formation and management of arable soils and providing evidence for deposits associated with ironworking.

Manufacture, Trade and Contact

Evidence for manufacture, such as copper alloy casting and ironworking, together with imported cultural material such as pottery and Roman glass, are providing evidence for both production and trade, which in turn provides further insight into the site’s status and how this might have changed over time.

Power, Status and Social Hierarchies

The broch and defensive ditch, together with the post broch village, may be interpreted as being indicative of monumentality, control of wealth and status within a social system. Questions surrounding the accumulation or control of wealth and evidence for craft specialisation are being investigated within this theme.


View details about each phase of the project: