MHG845 - Broch - Thing's Va


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Type and Period (1)

  • BROCH (Early Iron Age to Early Medieval - 550 BC to 1057 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

Thing’s Va, ND06NE0001

Thing's Va (NAT) Broch (NR) OS 6"map, (1969)

A broch, partly excavated, on the centre of a mound 110ft in diameter, which is cut off from higher level to N by a ditch 30ft wide, 8ft deep below top of scarp and about 4ft below top of a bank on counter-scarp.
The broch stands 18 -20ft from edge of ditch, and measures 30ft internally and probably 60ft externally (judging by given length of passage, 15ft). External wall has not been cleared but internal wall is exposed at several points. The unroofed passage in SE has walls standing to a max height of 4ft and two sets of door-checks, between which, on right, is apparent entrance to guard chamber, inner edge of which is visible although neither passage nor chamber has been cleared. The inner left wall of passage is concealed by a secondary wall which curves to right into interior of broch, and another secondary wall is visible 9ft to left of it in uncleared interior.
The name 'Thing's Va' is a corruption of 'Thing-vollr', Norse for a local court or assembly.
RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910.

The broch was Scheduled in 1938.

The remains of broch as described by RCAHMS. A small cell at a higher level on the left inside entrance has been exposed by excavation. A slight bank which runs off to W from the outer defensive bank, a small oval mound on NE end of bank and another oval mound to SE of it, are not necessarily coeval with the broch.
Re-surveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 25 February 1965.

A grass-covered stoney mound 45 by 42m by 4m high, enclosed by a bank, 60m by 55m. <1>
R J Mercer 1981.

'Thing's Va', a turf-covered broch partially exposed in old excavation trenches, is generally as described by previous authorities. The 'small cell' noted by previous OS field investigator is entrance to a guard-cell totally obscured by tumble; and the ancillary features described form no logical association with the broch, so may be later.
Revised at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 24 August 1981.

ND 065 680 (centre) An archaeological desk-based study was undertaken in September 1994 as part of environmental assessment for a planned windfarm development. The study was designed to identify and evaluate any archaeological monuments present, through the examination of documentary, cartographic and aerial photographic sources. The study area covered approximately 10.5 sq km. Previous systematic fieldwork covering the majority of the proposed development area was led by Mr R J Mercer between 1980-3. Sites located within the study area comprised: two brochs, seven longhouses, 12 lengths of wall, four enclosures, ten structures, a windmill, two cairns, a cist, a burnt mound, ten mounds, two field systems and two areas of rig-and-furrow. No new sites or monuments were located as part of the current study. A detailed report is lodged with the NMRS.
Sponsor: EcoGen Limited.
R J Strachan 1995.

This largely turf-covered broch, stands in the centre of a large natural mound, overlooking the town of Thurso. The entrance passage, a probable guard chamber and two sets of door checks against which wooden doors would have rested, are visible.
The name Thing’s Va, is a corruption of ‘Thing-vollr’, the Scandinavian word for a local court or assembly. It is possible that this refers to local beliefs about the original function of the broch or to its re-use as a court hill during the Norse period. (48)
(9.1m/c. 18.1m)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 119, No. 432.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

ND06 11 THING'S VA ND/0808 6824 (visited 9/7/63)
This partly excavated probable broch is in Thurso parish, Caithness, and is typical of those on the Caithness plain, standing as it does on gently rolling terrain and on an artificial platform – a wide, flat mound surrounded by a ditch and with an outer rampart beyond it. In 1910 limited excavation had left exposed the entrance on the south-east and this is about 4.58m (15ft) long and 1.07m (3.5ft) wide at the exterior; there are door-checks, formed of slabs set at right angles into the walls, 1.17m (3ft 10in) in. Thereafter the passage is 1.30m (4ft 3in) wide. There are signs of the doorway to a guard cell on the right behind the checks, and of a second set of checks 2.44m (8ft) in from the first set. The inner wallface is visible in places, indicating an internal diameter of about 9.15m (30ft), and there are signs of a secondary wall built against it to the left of the entrance [2]. Traces of a guard cell on the left of the entrance passage have been seen [1].
A recent survey showed that most of the features described by the Commission are not now visible [3] but in 1963 there were still traces of part of the interior wallface with what may be a radial wall projecting from it. The name of the site derives from the Norse Thing-vollr – a local assembly or law court.
Sources: 1. NMRS site no. ND 06 NE 1: 2. RCAHMS 1911a, 119, no. 432: 3. Mercer 1981, 150, no. 461 and fig. 34. <2>

A fluxgate gradiometer survey and an earth resistance survey were carried out by ORCA in 2017 on the southeast side of the broch. The survey formed part of the Caithness Broch Festival Archaeology Programme, which aimed to provide the opportunity for the local community and visitors to the county to engage with their local archaeology, whilst conducting significant archaeological research. The main focus of the survey was an area around the broch, covering both the scheduled area and beyond. Approximately 1ha of gradiometer survey was carried out, with subsequent targeted earth resistance survey over areas of potential archaeological interest. A further small area of magnetometry survey was carried out over a cairn in a field to the southeast of the broch (see MHG855). Within the Scheduled Area of the broch, the magnetometry survey showed the line of the extant bank as well as some indication of another extant earthwork on its southwest side. An area of strong response was visible on the northeast side, perhaps indicative of a burnt mound. Two possible structures were identified to the northeast of the broch. The targeted earth resistance survey focused on an area to the northeast of the broch. The results echoed those from the magnetometer survey in showing the presence of the possible burnt mound, and suggestions of other possible structural remains in the east of the survey area. <3>

Archaeological trial trenches were excavated by ORCA in 2017 at the broch site and the nearby cairn (see MHG855), commissioned by the Caithness Broch Project (CBP). The trial trenches were located in order to ground-truth a number of anomalies identified in a geophysical survey carried out by ORCA in August 2017. The results of the fieldwork both varied by both nature and location. In Trenches 1 and 2, located to the northeast of the broch itself no archaeological evidence was observed to confirm the geophysics findings. It was considered that the geophysical anomalies may reflect the presence of clumps of iron pan in the subsoil, although it was possible they may be a result of ephemeral activities undertaken at this location that only left signatures in the soil rather than archaeological remains. The lack of definite structural form or diagnostic small find evidence from any of the trenches meant that the features could not be placed within a definite period and more extensive excavation would be required to address this. Thus the assumption that any of these features are related to the broch or Norse activity, remained to be proven. It was proposed that geophysical survey in the ploughed field south of the broch (which was not possible due to the field being under crop at the time of the original survey) would complete a full circuit of survey around the broch. This would identify the potential presence / absence of a related extramural settlement. Field-walking was planned over ploughed fields around the broch in early 2018, which could identify datable finds. <4>

Sources/Archives (15)



Grid reference Centred ND 0807 6825 (110m by 110m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND06NE
Civil Parish THURSO
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Investigations/Events (3)

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