Rousay, Midhowe


Site Name Rousay, Midhowe

Classification Broch

Canmore ID 2286

Site Number HY33SE 2

NGR HY 37169 30598

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Rousay And Egilsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY33SE 2 37169 30598

(HY 3716 3061) Mid Howe (NR)

OS 6"map, Orkney, 2nd ed.,(1900).

The broch and attendant buildings were excavated between 1930 and 1933 and then taken under guardianship. Before excavation there was only a grassy mound about 18' high with stones sticking through the surface in places, standing about 28' above low-water mark and occupying the landward end of a small promontory, which falls down to the water in a series of broad ledges, bounded on the SE and NW by the Stenchna Geo and the Geo of Brough.

The tower is built in the centre of the promontory and measures 30' in diameter within a wall 15' thick still standing to a height of 14', which can be seen to be composed at the lower levels of two virtually separate skins. It stands within the precincts of an enclosure formed by a thick wall with a quarry ditch on either side. The outer face of the wall is steep if not sheer, the inner face considerable battered. It still stands to a height of 7' on the outside, and its width varies from 13' 6" to 19'. The broch contains many of the usual features, but particually well displayed-door-checks, bar-holes, guard-cells, galleries and stair case.

Outside the tower on all sides except the SW are the remains of later buildings. At least two periods of construction can be identified. After the erection of the earliest group of out-buildings there appears to have been a sagging in the N sector of the wall of the tower, and to prevent a total collapse it was buttressed on the outside, the lower gallery within the wall was filled along the greater part of its length with slabs set on edge and a stone casing was built against the inside of the wall at the weakened part. It is probable that, when these strengthening operations were carried out, a complete reconstruction of the inner court of the broch on quite a different plan was decided upon, and the buildings which survive today were erected.

Two cup-marked stones were discovered built into the broch; one, which also showed ring-marks, was inserted low down in the outer wall of the tower of its NE side, and the other in a late building to the S of the main building.

A large number of finds were found during the excavations and presented to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), objects of stone, bone and bronze, including a few Roman potsherds and fragments of a Roman patera.

R W Feachem 1963; RCAHMS 1946; J G Callander 1934; J Curle 1932; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1937 (Donations); 1962 (Donations).

Mid How Broch (HBM [DoE] plaque), as described and illustrated in above authorities.

Re-surveyed at 1/2500

Visited by OS(AA) 11 October 1972.

Classification of Roman material.

A Robertson 1970.

HY 371 306 A watching brief was conducted in March 2004 on work required after the collapse of masonry from the revetment wall around the head of Stenchna Geo, a narrow inlet on the S side of the broch. The wall is not Iron Age in date, but a rebuild or enhancement of a 19th- or 20th-century field dyke. No finds were recovered and no soils of Iron Age date were noted.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

P Sharman 2004



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