MHG1645 - Broch - Whitegate


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Type and Period (1)

  • BROCH (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD) + Sci.Date

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Full Description

Whitegate, Keiss, ND36SE0003

Brochs are round, tower-like houses, their monumental size intended to display the wealth and status of the agricultural communities who lived in them. They were occupied in the later Iron Age and occur frequently in north and west of Scotland. (41)
Whitegate lies on a level beach terrace, very close to the broch known as the Harbour Mound. Yet another broch, known as the Road broch, lies further up the slope. All three brochs have complexes of buildings surrounding the tower and may have had quite large populations. (47)
Even though brochs in Caithness do occur close together, this group of three is exceptional, both for their closeness and for the complexity of the surrounding settlement. Unfortunately, we do not have enough information to be sure that all three were occupied at the one time. (46)
(c. 8m/11.8m)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 156-7, No. 516.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

ND36SE 3.00 3541 6120.
Whitegate Broch (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1973)

Whitegate Broch has an internal diameter of 26ft and a wall thickness of about 13ft. The wall remains to a height of about 3ft.
The slab settings in the central court and chamber in wall opposite the entrance are secondary, as also is series of outbuildings through which entrance is prolonged.
The finds from broch include grain-rubbers and rotary querns and fragments of a large jar of coarse, unglazed pottery from one of the internal, secondary structures. This has been reconstructed and is now in NMAS, as are finds from excavation by Sir Francis Tress Barry. Anderson notes remains of foundations of an oblong, rectangular building within a few yards of broch. This has been 45ft long by 24ft broad with dry-built walls about 4ft thick. This building seems to compare with the houses of the Viking settlement at Freswick (ND36NE 4), although as Childe points out, these were probably fore-runners of the 'black-house type', in which case the building might simply be one of these.
Probably similar buildings are also noted at Keiss Broch (ND36SE 20 and the Road Broch (ND36SW 1).
A Young 1964; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1893; 1909; J Anderson 1901; V G Childe 1943.

As described above and in a ruinous condition.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 14 September 1965.

Internal diameter c.8m, walls c.4m x 1m high. Located on the coastal pasture, 100m N of Keiss broch. Excavated by Tress Barry and now in a ruinous and overgrown condition. WIC 099.
C Batey, Caithness Coastal Survey 1981

Whitegate Broch is as described by the previous authorities; the excavation was never back-filled and the walling is still exposed. The dry-stone structures noted by Batey a short distance to the SW and NE of the broch form no intelligible pattern and their date and purpose remain uncertain.
Visited by OS (N K B) 22 July 1982

The broch was scheduled by Historic Environment Scotland in 2016. <1> <2>

A radiocarbon date was obtained for human skeletal material found in the interior, as part of the Human Remains from Iron Age Atlantic Scotland Dating Project 2009. This indicated an Iron Age date of 201-105 BC, calibrated to 1 sigma. <3>

Finds in NMS from Tress Barry's excavations also include pottery, bone pin, bone points, human skull, spindle whorls, beads (one possibly amber) and stone discs. Acc. Nos. GA 601-GA 617. Acquired by the NMS in 1908. <4>

The site is discussed in A. Heald a A. Jackson's 2001 PSAS article, which includes a list of finds from the site. See link below. <5>

This site was included in Mackie's 2007 'The Roundhouses, Brochs and Wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700 BC - AD 500: Architecture and material culture'. See link below to HES Canmore record which includes the chapter on this site. <6>

ND36SE 3.01 ND 3549 6121 Structure
ND36SE 3.02 ND 3545 6117 Structure

Sources/Archives (6)



Grid reference Centred ND 3542 6119 (35m by 38m)
Map sheet ND36SE
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (10)

  • ROTARY QUERN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • PIN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • POINT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • BEAD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • NEEDLE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • GRAIN RUBBER (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (3)

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