MHG2079 - Broch, Cairn of Elsay


No summary available.

Type and Period (1)

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

Protected Status

Full Description

Cairn of Elsay (NAT) Broch (NR) OS 6" map, (1968)

Broch, 'Cairn of Elsay', Staxigoe, was excavated and planned by the late Sir Francis Tress Barry. The wall was approximately 17ft thick, enclosing an inner area with diameter of 29ft. Any outbuildings which may exist around broch have not been uncovered. The plan shows an outer casing wall on S, through which an entrance passes, but this is not now apparent.
RCAHMS 1911.

The broch is a grass-covered mound situated on level ground close to shore. It is 18m diameter, has a wall 4.8m thick and stands to a max height of 2.7m above level of the ground at base of the mound. A fragment of inner face of the wall is visible on E side only, but outer face is exposed to a height of 1.2m and for a length of 7m on NE side; fragments are also visible on SE side.
The entrance, in SE, is 0.7m wide, its walls exposed to a height of 1.2m at the outer end.
The court is now a rubble-strewn hollow 2.6m below top of broch except for a large, stony, grass-covered mound 1.2m high which extends from centre to NE of entrance. In centre of the court is an upright stone slab 1m high, 0.4m wide and 0.1m thick.
No trace of any outbuildings was seen around the broch.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (E G C) 22 April 1963.

Finds from broch were donated to NMAS by representatives of the late Sir Francis Tress Barry in 1908.
Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1909

Wall thickness 5.18m, diameter 8.84m. C E Batey 1981.

No change. Visited by OS (J B) 18 August 1982.

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.<1>

A long handled antler comb from the site was radiocarbon dated in 2008, but only published in 2017 as part of the National Museum of Scotland's radiocarbon dating program of items from their collections. It indicated a Late Iron Age date of AD 143-384, calibrated to 2 sigma. <2>

Finds acquired by the NMS in 1908 from Tress Barry’s excavations include a long-handled weaving comb, bone handle, bone pin fragments, bone bobbin, bone needle, fragment of toilet combs, bone fragments, part of a bone vessel, cetacean bone portion, Antler and tusks, whetstones, stone disc, flint scraper, bow-shaped portion of a bronze fibula and portion of a bronze bow brooch, portions of iron, part of a pottery vessel, and a gun flint (GA 799-827). <3>

Sources/Archives (6)



Grid reference Centred ND 3871 5199 (43m by 54m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND35SE
Civil Parish WICK
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

Finds (15)

  • WEAVING COMB (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • PIN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • BOBBIN (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • NEEDLE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • VESSEL (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • WHETSTONE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • DISC (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • SCRAPER (TOOL) (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • BROOCH (Roman - 79 AD? to 409 AD?)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • GUNFLINT (Post Medieval - 1560 AD to 1900 AD)
  • HANDLE (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • COMB (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)
  • UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (0)

External Links (2)

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