North Ronaldsay, Broch Of Burrian


Site Name North Ronaldsay, Broch Of Burrian

Classification Broch

Alternative Name(s) Burrian Broch; Strom Ness; Stromness; Burrian Brough

Canmore ID 3679

Site Number HY75SE 3

NGR HY 7627 5138

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Cross And Burness
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY75SE 3.00 7627 5138

(HY 7627 5138) Burrian Brough (NR).

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

HY75SE 3.01 HY 7627 5138 Incised pebble; incised bone

HY75SE 3.02 HY 7627 5138 Cross-slab: ogam-inscribed

See also HY75SE 2 and HY75SE 19.

A broch, excavated by Dr Wm Traill in 1870 (and described in The Orkney Herald in October 1870) showed two phases of occupation, and possibly a third - Celtic ecclesiastical. The wall is 15' thick, enclosing a courtyard 32' in diameter, with an entrance in the SE and a mural cell in the NE arc. A peculiarity of the construction is a 4' high 'intake' above a scarcement 3' above the original occupation floor. It is defended by the remains of four ramparts on the landward side. In the second phase the broch was converted into a sort of wheelhouse with septal divisions. Buttressing on the outer face of the NW arc may belong to this period, as may the remains of several small buildings on the north.

The outer face of the wall is obscured, being incorporated in/a later wall on the east and SE and largely hidden by a 9'-10' high mass of debris on the north and NW. There is a well in the courtyard.

What Radford takes to be evidence of the existence of a Celtic christian community - ie, a monastery or hermitage - is provided by an early cross with an Ogham inscription, an ox-bone with Pictish symbols and a pebble with Celtic designs which he compares with the pebble-cut votive crosses of St Ninian's Cave, Whithorn (NX43NW 8). A Celtic bell of the earlier type (5th - 9th c) was also found and 3 bone dice. (D V Clarke 1970).

Dr Traill donated the finds from the site to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1872.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1875 (Donations); J R Allen and J Anderson 1903; RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928; C A R Radford 1962; R W Feachem 1963; C Thomas 1963; A MacGregor 1975.

Burrian broch as described and planned. A perforated bronze needle 3 1/2" long was found in the field to the W centred HY 762 514, and is now in the possession of Mr J Seatter of Howar, North Ronaldsay.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 22 July 1970.

RMS GB 230: Fragment. Intact side numbered 6 with four of the dots enclosed by two concentric circles. The damaged sides both have two dots, on one side enclosed by single circles and on the other by two concentric circles.41 x 21mm.

RMS GB 231: Numbered 3, 4, 5, 6: the '3' and '4' sides damaged. All dots enclosed by poorly executed single circles. 44 x 17mm. Bad restoration of this broken piece has caused the anomalous cross-section. RMS GB 229: No markings are certainly discernible on the worn and damaged surfaces. 43 x 16mm. Find spot unknown.

D V Clarke 1970. E J MacKie 1971.

Historic Scotland, delisted 20 March 2000.

(Undated) information from Historic Scotland.

Scheduled as Burrian, broch and settlement.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 3 March 2000.

'The Saturday Herald and Shetland Gazette' in 1871 briefly mentions that an Oghan stone from the site had been donated to the S A S Museum.

M Howe 2006

Excavation; geophysical survey HY 7627 5138 Slumped deposits were cleared and excavated in September 2005 over a section at the Broch of Burrian (HY75SE3) during dyke repairs. Truncated undisturbed archaeological deposits of ash and a pit or gully were revealed, but there was no need to excavate them. Most of the material cleared by the work

was derived from a spoil heap from William Traill's excavations of 1870-71. Finds from this material include three bone pins and a Pictish painted quartz pebble. Orkney College Geophysics Unit conducted a gradiometer survey over c 1ha around the site. The results indicated differences in construction between the broch ramparts, identified the remains of structures outwith the ramparts, and located other anomalies of archaeological significance often corresponding with extant earthworks, some of which continued beyond the Scheduled area. Anomalies relating to the medieval/

post-medieval site of Burrigar farmstead were also located.

Reports to be lodged with Orkney SMR and NMRS.

Sponsor: HS.

P Sharman 2005.

Iron Age comb; stone spindle whorl HY 763 514 Fragment of bone or antler weaving comb and a stone spindle whorl found eroding from a wall adjacent to the Broch of Burrian. The comb, which has lost most of its handle, retains nine teeth. The biconical whorl is 29.1mm in diameter. Claimed as Treasure Trove (TT.15/05) and allocated to NMS, where they join similar objects from the 1870-71 excavations at Broch of Burrian.

A Heald 2005.

Architecture Notes

Historic Scotland - delisted 20.3.2000.



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