Yesnaby, Broch Of Borwick

Broch, Midden, Unidentified Pottery (iron Age)

Site Name Yesnaby, Broch Of Borwick

Classification Broch, Midden, Unidentified Pottery (iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Yescanaby

Canmore ID 1660

Site Number HY21NW 1

NGR HY 2241 1678

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Sandwick
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY21NW 1 2241 1678.

(HY 2241 1678) Brough of Borwick (NR)

O.S.6"map, Orkney, 2nd ed.,(1903).

The Broch of Borwick occupies the summit of a promontory, 80-90ft above the sea, with a small sandy bay on its south side. The pormontory must have originally been cut off from the land by an outer wall which ran along the edge of a shallow depression some 82ft broad, thought by some to be artificial. At the point where this wall met the south cliff there are the remains of a building with a chamber. According to Watt, in 1881 the whole of the promontory with- in this outer wall was covered with the remains of 'out- buildings'. Some of these buildings were traced by the RCAHMS. "... at a distance of some 60ft from the tower ..."

Before excavation in 1881 (W G T Watt 1882) the broch appeared as a turf-covered mound 15-20 ft high. Watt found that the wall of the broch varied from 11ft 5 ins to 16ft in thickness and stood up to at least 16ft in height, enclosing an area about 24ft in diameter. This was reduced by secondary building to a court about 16ft in diameter, the later construction standing on a three-foot depth of broch debris. An analogous structure at Dun Mor Vaul, Tiree ( ) produced 2nd century AD material.

The RCAHM found in 1937 that the seaward side of the broch had fallen and that the walls stood to about 8 1/2 ft high, and that there was no trace of any internal detail.

RCAHMS 1946; E W MacKie 1965.

The Broch of Borwick is generally as described by the RCAHMS.The interior is a mass of tumbled debris, where a length of only c.1.5m. of the walling of the secondary structure could be found, on the north side. The outbuildings and wall could be traced only for very short lengths and the building at the junction of the wall and the south cliff is now almost unrecognisable because of cliff erosion.

Visited by OS(RL) 15 May 1966.

The outer face of the broch tower has been removed by marine erosion for a distance of c.4m on the S side, with a further 2-3m on either side of the gap surviving to basal course only.

A midden, lying on bedrock, has been revealed 9m NE of the tower in t he cliff section. This contained ash and 10 fragments of Middle Iron Age pottery, fragments of animal bone, a piece of perforated flagstone, and shells. A floot tank with basal slab lies 3m W of the midden and contained a scatter of earth and rabbit bone. The possible remains of a wall running E-W overlie the tank and midden.

The pottery has been deposited in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall ( Accession no. THM 1983. 137), along with a fuller report of the site. The other finds were left in situ.

D Lynn and B Bell 1983.

The midden, noted in 1983 produced six further fragments of middle Iron Age pottery, including two rim sherds. A bone fragment (possibly a sheep ulna) also found had been shaped to a point and polished. Its length is 133mm.

Further erosion of the S face of the broch tower had taken place, together with the exposure of further indeterminate structural remains to the SE of the broch. A full report has been deposited in Tankerness House Museum, Kirkwall, with the finds. (Accession nos: pottery fragments (all) THM 1987.127, bone point THM 1987.128).

D Lynn and B Bell 1987.

'The Orcadian' extensively describes the excavation of Broch of Borwick, including a sea-level chamber, between December 1-15 1906. The paper describes the site again in 1910.

M Howe 2006



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