Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Upscale Iron Age Village Volume 53 Number 4, July/August 2000
by Kristin M. Romey

[image] This Iron Age settlement on Shetland Island is the best-preserved in Britain. (Courtesy Steven Dockrill) [LARGER IMAGE]

Calling it "the best-preserved Iron Age settlement in Britain," archaeologists from Bradford University and the Shetland Amenity Trust have uncovered a wealthy village dating from 200 B.C.-A.D. 800 on the southern tip of Shetland Island.

"It is an incredibly important site because of its age and because it is so well preserved," says excavation director Steve Dockrill. "It is at least as significant as Stonehenge because of the amount of information it holds."

The center of the settlement features a massive round stone watchtower called a broch, approximately 50 feet in diameter and 12-15 feet high, surrounded by well-preserved buildings, some with yellow clay still plastered to the walls. The broch, found only in Scotland and the Northern and Western Isles, was an Iron Age status symbol for the ruling elite and suggests that the site was a center of considerable wealth.

The settlement remained occupied intermittently into the twentieth century. There is also evidence for Neolithic and Late Bronze Age activity at the site.

© 2000 by the Archaeological Institute of America