MHG1650 - Keiss Road Broch


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Type and Period (1)

  • BROCH (CULTURE 100; CULTURE 199; , Iron Age - 550 BC? to 560 AD?)

Protected Status

Full Description

RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 156-7, No. 516.
Road or Kirk Tofts, Keiss, ND36SW0001

This broch, dug out in the late nineteenth century, appears much as it did when first excavated, although it is now rather overgrown. It consists of the broch tower lying at the centre of a maze of humps and bumps representing associated structures. (43)
Within the tower, a sense of the way in which the living space was organised can be seen in the arrangements of upright slabs dividing the floor into separate areas. The opening to an underground well or chamber close to the centre and a slab built tank can also be seen. (51)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 157-8, No. 517.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

ND36SW 1 3488 6151.
Kirk Tofts (NAT) Broch (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

The Road Broch is one of the best examples of a 1st phase broch (1st centuries BC and AD), although it was re-used during Broch II phase (2nd, 3rd centuries AD) and again during the post-broch era. It was built on a mesolithic kitchen midden (see MHG42433).
The dimensions of original broch appear to have been 34ft internal diam, with walls only about 12ft thick.
The second phase of occupation involved external strengthening of walls, creation of a secondary entrance and blocking of original entrance, as at Keiss. During the third phase of occupation secondary entrance was blocked and original entrance re-opened again as at Keiss. The large circular court at the entrance, with accompanying outbuildings, internal slab compartments, and massive wall that surrounds complex, also belong to this period. Finds from broch include vessels and implements of bone and stone, querns (both saddle and rotary), ingot moulds and sherds, including a fragment of 2nd century Samian ware.
Anderson notes foundations of an oblong, rectangular building which he suggests could be church (ND36SW 2) which is said to have stood in the vicinity; but similar buildings are associated with Keiss broch (ND36SE 2) and Whitegate broch (ND36SE 3). The foundations lie between the circumavallation, the graveyard and the road, and since they overlie the wall of an outbuilding by some 4ft, appear to be of much later date. A Young 1964; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910; J Anderson 1901; Name Book 1873; A D Lacaille 1954; S Laing 1866.

'Kirk Tofts' Broch, now overgrown, is generally as described above. There is no trace of the alleged church noted by Anderson and only SE arc of outer rampart is clearly discernible.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 6 September 1965.

Samian sherd now in NMAS. A S Robertson 1970.

NW entrance has a feature very rare in brochs, a stair running up from W side of passage, which recalls design of the dun at Forse. It is probable that this broch shows how an imported fort plan was modified by the pre-existing local traditions seen at Forse.
E W MacKie 1975.

A hipped bone pin and a slotted and pointed iron object from the site are datable to the period about 600 - 934 AD by comparison with finds from Lagore crannog, Co. Meath.
R B K Stevenson 1955; L R Laing 1975.

The second of the two finds (above) is presumably the 'harpoon of iron 1ft 8.5ins in length, the barb 1 5/8 by 1.75ins with a slot below it, from the surface rubbish over the mound on Keiss Broch'.
Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1908.

The broch was photographed by the Highland Council in 2000(?) as part of the SCRAN Project. <1> <2> <3> <4> <5> <6> <7> <8> <9> <10> <11> <12>

As part of a wider study of Iron Age Caithness, spnsored by the National Museums of Scotland, Keiss Road Broch was one of six such sites recorded by total station survey in 2000. <13>

The broch was one of two such sites subsequently surveyed in September 2004 in a project overseen by AOC Archaeology Group and involving students of the University of Nottingham as part of the wider study into Iron Age Caithness.

Two 2m x 1m trial trenches were excavated in 2006 by AOC Archaeology Group. One trench was excavated within the central area of the broch, and a second one outside and to the northeast of the broch. The trench in the interior revealed no surviving in situ deposits. The trench outwith the broch revealed a topsoil deposit of at least 2m depth. No direct evidence of archaeological structures or artefacts was encountered. <14>

A catalogue of painted pebbles was compiled by Anna Ritchie in 2014. This recorded a painted pebble from Keiss Broch, found in 1895. 31 mm diameter; encircled cross on one side, curl and dot on the other. NMS GA 503. <15>

Finds from the early excavations by Samual Laing, acquired by the NMS in 1865 include: bone pins and implements, bone awl, pottery sherds and plain stone balls (GJ 117-GA 199, GA 124, GA 129, GA 135- GA155). Finds from Tress Barry’s excavations, also in the NMS include: bone and antler points, bone weaving combs, bone awls, cetacean bone handle, bone and antler implements, bear tooth, bone implements, stone discs, stone cups, hammerstones, whetstones, stone whorls, bronze ring, samian ware, IA pottery (GA 531-599A, GA 912-914). A bone fish-gorge is dated in the catalogue to LBA. <16>

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. <17>

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. <18>

The NMS contains human remains (a portion of a lower jaw with a tooth), from the site. This is from Samuel Laing's 1865 excavation assemblage, and it is listed under Acc. No. GJ 119. <16> <19>

Sources/Archives (31)



Grid reference Centred ND 3487 6150 (56m by 59m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND36SW
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (25)

  • HARPOON (Undated)
  • INGOT MOULD (Undated)
  • SADDLE QUERN (Undated)
  • PIN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • AWL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • POINT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • STONE BALL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WEAVING COMB (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • CUP (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SPINDLE WHORL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • RING (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WORKED OBJECT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • LAMP (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • RING (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • NEEDLE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • FISH GORGE (Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age - 2400 BC? to 560 AD?)
  • SHERD (Early Iron Age to Medieval - 550 BC to 1559 AD)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • HAMMERSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • ROTARY QUERN (Undated)
  • PIN (Early Medieval - 561 AD to 1057 AD)
  • SHERD (Roman - 79 AD to 409 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (1)

External Links (4)

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