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  • Stephen Jennings

Site in Focus - Broch of Clickimin

With its exceptional size and Lerwick location the Broch of Clickimin is perhaps one of the most visible and easily accessible prehistoric sites in all of Shetland. Indeed it may well be the only prehistoric structure many will ever see up close. Given this, it's a wonder we haven't profiled it as a Site in Focus before now.

Officially the broch was excavated between 1953 and 1957 by J R C Hamilton who determined the earliest occupation of the site was a small Bronze Age farmstead in the 7th or 6th century BC. Later it was reconstructed as a circular Iron Age farmstead in the 5th century BC, a fort by the 3rd century BC, a broch by the 1st century AD and finally a wheelhouse in the 2nd or 3rd century AD before the site was abandoned not long after.

Unofficially the site was first excavated and reconstructed by the well-meaning Victorian men of 1861-1862. It was further rebuilt in 1908-1910 by the Office of Works after a period of vandalism, theft of stone and general disrepair. This has led to much controversy surrounding the authenticity of the site as we see it today (see our In Depth piece found in the Archives, “Excavation and the Story of Four Sites”) including the chronology as presented by Hamilton.

Nonetheless, with an external diameter of 20m and an internal diameter of 9m, surrounding drystone walls and ringwork, blockhouse, guard cells and external outhouses it is both a sprawling occupation complex spanning 1,000 or so years and a rather confined site situated on a small promontory in Clickimin Loch (what might have once been an island in a loch open to the sea). Some of the finds on site have included stone lamps, whetstones, whalebone objects, a die, bronze objects, and two fragments of Roman glass. Yet one of the more impressive artefacts associated with the late Iron Age period of occupation is a coronation stone, a slab with two carved footprints said to mark the site where kings or chieftains were crowned, found on the causeway leading to the broch and still on site.

Well worth a visit so do some research, bring a lunch and ponder the site so you too can leap headlong into the broch debates and more specifically the Broch of Clickimin debate.

Links for further information:

Broch of Clickimin on Canmore

From Undiscovered Scotland

From Wikipedia

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