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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 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2016.

Digital Images

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


Antiquarian Observation (1870)

Drawings by George Petrie of sites in Orkney in sketchbook MS 28/487/8 in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Aerial Photography (1971)

Oblique aerial photographs of Midhowe broch, Rousay, by John Dewar in 1971

Geophysical Survey (June 2010)

HY 371 305 Students from Orkney College, under the supervision of staff from ORCA Geophysics and the Orkney College Department of Archaeology, undertook a geophysical survey at Westness in June 2010. The work consisted of a c1.4ha gradiometer and electromagnetic survey and a 40 x 20m GPR survey. The gradiometer results were dominated by an L-shaped ditch, which ran roughly E–W from the direction of the broch for c75m before curving sharply SSE–NNW for c40m. This feature was also recorded in the magnetic susceptibility Excavating the prehistoric structure on the beach at Swandro survey. Immediately to the N of the ditch was an area of enhanced magnetism, which may reflect the presence of enhanced soils, such as midden material in the vicinity of

the broch settlement. A N–S orientated positive anomaly, running perpendicular to and perhaps cut by the ditch, was extremely magnetic and may form the edge of the enhanced soils to the E of the broch. A Z-shaped negative anomaly, which may indicate the presence of a wall, was recorded in the N of the survey area. A positive linear feature was recorded running SSE–NNW to the E of the L-shaped ditch. This feature may represent a geological feature, but an archaeological interpretation cannot be ruled out. A curving anomaly, perhaps representing a ditched feature, in the SE of the survey area, seems to be anchored onto the S end of thelinear anomaly and may represent part of a field boundary. Adjacent to this, other seemingly conjoined curving and linear anomalies may represent further elements of a field system.

Archive: ORCA Geophysics

Funder: University of Bradford

Excavation (18 April 2011 - 19 April 2011)

HY 3716 3061 A small area around a hearth, exposed after the removal of its modern metal cover, was cleaned and recorded on 18–19 April 2011. The area had been partially excavated between 1929 and 1934 and it became clear that significant deposits are still in situ.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

Kirkdale Archaeology, 2011


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