top of page
  • Archaeology Shetland

Site in Focus - Jarlshof

One of the most striking sites in all of Scotland, and perhaps the most remarkable on Shetland, is Jarlshof. With continuous habitation over a 4000 year period - a span that includes the late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish era, Norse era and Middle Ages - the site includes Bronze Age houses, a broch, four wheelhouses, a Viking longhouse and finally a 16th century laird's house.

The site first came to attention following a late 19th century when a massive storm opened the low cliffs to reveal the prehistoric settlements. With formal excavations beginning in 1925 a wide array of artefacts were unearthed including items from daily Bronze Age life, Pictish art and Norse farming and fishing. Some of these can still be seen on site at the visitor centre.

Of note, the majority of wheelhouses in the Northern Isles are associated with brochs though of later construction. With a much lower profile on the land they were most often built below ground level with little more than the thatched roof showing. They are of further distinction because they are unique to the Western and Northern Isles. Finally, with the Old House of Sumburgh abandoned by the end of the 1600s occupation came to a close on the site.

bottom of page