Scheduled Monument

Lower Camster, broch 340m E ofSM536

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.

Summary

Date Added
08/08/1939
Last Date Amended
03/02/2017
Type
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch
Local Authority
Highland
Planning Authority
Highland
Parish
Wick
NGR
ND 25557 45604
Coordinates
325557, 945604

Description

The monument is a broch, a complex and substantial stone-built roundhouse dating to the Iron Age (between 600 BC and AD 400). The monument is visible as a sub-circular mound set on a rounded rock on the summit of a rocky escarpment. To the east and west remains of an outer ditch are visible. The monument is located approximately 100m above sea level about 85m northeast of Camster Burn. It is surround by gently sloping moorland and forestry.

The rocky outcrop on which the broch is set rises around 3.5m above the escarpment which in turn stands around 3.5m above the Camster Burn to the south. The broch is visible as a turf-covered mound with the outline of the circular broch walls visible and measuring around 1m high. The broch has an external diameter of around 23.8m and an internal diameter of around 10.7m. Immediately northwest of the broch, several hollows and evidence of stones or slabs may indicate the presence of outbuildings or later structures. On the east side of the broch mound is a length of ditch 40m long, 12m wide and 1.2m deep. There are also fragmentary remains on the west, and the ditch probably surrounded the broch on the west, north and east, enclosing an area about 32m in diameter and terminating at the escarpment at each end.

The scheduled area, centred on the broch, is circular on plan with a diameter of 60m and clipped to the south of the adjacent track and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

 

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assesed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a broch, visible as a grass-covered mound sitting on a rocky outcrop on top of an escarpment. The mound appears to preserve the base of the broch walls. The rocky outcrop and escarpment, while not wholly artificial, have evidence of alteration by scarping to accommodate and defend the broch. There is evidence for the remains of outbuildings just northwest of the broch, these could be associated with the broch. Remains of an outer ditch appear particularly well-preserved on the east side of the broch.

The monument has high potential to support future archaeological research. The scale of the mound indicates that the buried broch walls survive and there is potential for architectural and other features such as an entrance passage, intramural cells, stairs, scarcement ledges, floor deposits and even a well. By analogy with other excavated brochs, the broch mound and surrounding ditch are likely to contain deposits rich in occupation debris, artefacts and palaeoenvironmental evidence that can tell us about how people lived, their trade and exchange contacts, and their social status.

Brochs in Caithness are typically thought to date from the mid first millennium BC to the early part of the first millennium AD although there are few precise scientific dates and our understanding of their dating has traditionally been based on typological studies of artefacts recovered from broch sites. The remains of a surrounding ditch and possible outbuildings indicates this site may have had a complex development sequence. Scientific investigation would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, its date of origin and development sequence, state of completeness, survival of outerworks and the nature of the potential outbuildings or related structures.

Broch towers are primarily seen as a specific specialised development of complex Atlantic roundhouses. They were large complex structures that could have accommodated either an extended family or a small community. While there would have been a social hierarchy within this community, the construction of these elaborate towers is often understood in terms of elite settlement. Other interpretations have stressed their likely role as fortified or defensive sites, possibly serving a community across a wider area. Brochs are complex structures likely to have had numerous purposes and a complex role in prehistoric society.

Contextual Characteristics

Brochs are a widespread class of monument across northern Scotland. This example is one of a large and significant local group found in Caithness. It is similar to the typical Caithness and North of Scotland broch pattern of 'mound on mound', where the upper mound is an accumulation of collapsed building material over the lower levels of the broch structure and its flooring, while the lower area of the site may retain evidence of subsidiary buildings and/or defences.

Location is a significant factor in understanding brochs and so too is intervisibility and relative position with other examples. This monument lies within a closely spaced group of brochs in the Camster area and offers potential to study their connections and draw comparisons with evidence from other brochs around the immediate locality as well as more widely across Caithness. Of particular contextual interest is the close proximity of another broch (scheduled monument reference SM537 and Canmore ID 8674), only 600m to the southwest. Today, forestry obscures the view between the two brochs but it is probable the sites were intervisible in prehistory. Other nearby brochs include Scorriclet broch (Canmore ID 8806) approximately 5.2km north northwest and Toftgun broch (Canmore ID 8715) around 4.5km southeast. There is therefore potential for comparative study to better understand the function of such monuments, their interrelationship and the significance of their placing within the landscape, in particular in relation to our understanding of Iron Age social hierarchy, changing settlement patterns and systems of inheritance.

Associative Characteristics

There are no known associative characteristics which contribute to the site's cultural significance.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age society in Caithness and the function, use and development of brochs in Caithness. It has good field characteristics, the visible remains including the substantial mound and surrounding ditch to the east. There is also high potential for buried remains, including the lower parts of the broch structure and outbuildings. The broch is a prominent feature in the landscape and would have been so when constructed and in use. In particular, its very close proximity to another broch can add to our understanding of the siting of these monuments in the landscape, enhancing understanding of settlement patterns and social structure during the Iron Age in Caithness. The loss of the monument would diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development, use and re-use of brochs, and the nature of Iron Age society, economy and social hierarchy in the north of Scotland.

References

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 8675 (accessed on 28/11/2016).

The Highland Council HER http://her.highland.gov.uk/ reference is MHG 1801 (accessed on 28/11/2016).

Feachem, R, 1963, A guide to prehistoric Scotland. London.

MacKie, E W, 2007, The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c. 700 BC - AD 500: architecture and material culture. Part 2 The Mainland and the Western Islands. BAR, vol 444. Oxford.

RCAHMS, 1911, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. London.

HER/SMR Reference

  • http://her.highland.gov.uk/SingleResult.aspx?uid=MHG1801

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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Printed: 19/05/2024 00:03