Old Scatness

Old Scatness in the South Mainland is an Iron Broch and Village although aspects of the site demonstrate that it was occupied for 2 millennia. The earliest evidence takes the form of ard-cultivated soils containing Early Iron Age pottery, coarse stone tools, and midden deposits which predate the construction of an Iron Age broch, defensive ditch and later settlement.

Scatness enlarge Scatness The site discovered during the construction of the airport access road, which cut through a grass-covered mound and exposed part of the broch. The excavation began twenty years later. Eleven summers of excavation revealed an Iron Age broch, surviving to nearly 4m in height, and a substantial post-broch village built around it. Curiously, the broch had two doorways, one of which was blocked up very early on. The other has a huge triangular lintel stone above it but it was built for show: the stone is large but very thin. A date from a barley grain found in the construction debris and another from bone found within the first course of the broch demonstrate that it was built between 400-200BC. This puts the date fof broch construction earlier than archaeologist had previously belived.

The houses around the broch were single walled, unlike the broch and had an upper storey, perhaps for storage. One had an outer staircase. Their diameters were similar to the broch however. Another of the houses was subdivided during its use and an Iron Age corn-drying kiln was inserted. The last time it was used the grain caught fire and the charred grain was left in it.

Five Pictish (later Iron Age) structures were built into the top of this Middle Iron Age village, some of which have now been removed. These include a clover-leaf structure added to the centre of the broch which is still visible and some small "figure of eight shaped buildings" which have been removed. A Pictish carving of a bear was discovered on the floor of one of the wheelhouses. When it was in place it was possibly on an orthostat (large upright stone) found opposite the door to a wheelhouse. It is now in the Shetland Museum. A Pictish boar, an arch and V rod and a number of "painted pebbles" were found in the houses.

The infill of the Pictish buildings included Viking soapstone artefacts. These and the remains of a Viking floor and hearth indicated that occupation continued into the Norse period. Old Scatness therefore provides archaeologists with a rare opportunity to understand elusive Pictish-Viking transition in Shetland.

For details of prices and booking, please visit the Old Scatness website.