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  Orkney's Brochs

External structures and villages

Exterior buildings at GurnessAlthough many brochs found across Scotland stood alone, brochs with external buildings and defences occur over a smaller area.

The larger brochs in Orkney were usually surrounded by small villages and outer defences - a plan unique to Orkney and the northern tip of the Scottish mainland.

At one time, it was thought that the jumble of external buildings and walls outside the brochs were later additions - built after the tower had fallen out of use.

But in light of the excavations at Howe, outside Stromness, and a re-evaluation of the records from earlier broch excavations, this idea seems to have fallen out of favour.

Archaeologists are now of the opinion that the settlements surrounding the brochs were there from the start - clustered around the foot of the stone tower.

A ruling elite

Where once people had lived in scattered, independent dwellings, the advent of the broch village saw them congregate in villages centred on a broch.

This seems to confirm that by the time of the brochs, a number of powerful inviduals, or families, had power over, or "ruled", over the bulk of the population.

The layout and architecture of these villages served as a physical reminder of the villagers' place in society - overshadowed by the monumental broch at the heart of their daily life.

The Broch Builders

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