South Ronaldsay, Castle Of Burwick

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Site Type CIST(S), FORT (IRON AGE), SETTLEMENT
Canmore ID 9561
Site Number ND48SW 2
NGR ND 4348 8423
Council ORKNEY ISLANDS
Parish SOUTH RONALDSAY
Former Region ORKNEY ISLANDS AREA
Former District ORKNEY
Former County ORKNEY
Datum OSGB36 - NGR

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Archaeological Notes

ND48SW 2 4350 8430

(ND 4350 8430) Castle of Burwick (NR) (Site of)
Stone Cists (NR)
OS 6" map (1900) .

'Castle of Burwick' applies to the remains of an ancient tumulus. On the west side, where a portion of the earth has been removed by storms, a great quantity of broken bones is discernable, also two stone cists formed of thin slabs. A number of the latter are said to have been removed for various purposes.
Name Book 1879.

A long peninsula connected to the W shore of the island by a narrow neck has apparently been occupied by a stone structure, but owing to the fragmentary remains, no guess can be made as to its character. The neck of the peninsula, which has been the only means of access, has been defended by at least two ditches, the upcast forming three mounds. The highest point of the site has been dug into and a large rim fragment of coarse pottery was picked out of the excavated hollow in 1929. It is now in the Museum of the Antiquarian Society at Kirkwall.
'Stone Cists' are noted on the OS plan as having been found here but no traces of them survive. On the cliff edge at the NW corner of the site a small kitchen- midden was observed.
RCAHMS 1946, visited 1929.

'Castle of Burwick' a promontory fort with secondary buildings, probably an early monastic settlement. The promontory has been cut off in the E by three ramparts with medial ditches behind which the head of the approach has been further defended by a wall, (now collapsed and robbed) surviving as a grassy scarp. Behind it are traces of a rectangular building (12.0m N-S) the W side of which has been destroyed by cliff erosion. Exposed in the cliff at this point are traces of dry stone walling and several upright slabs (possibly the alleged cists of the Ordnance Survey Name Book, ONB) as well as limpet shells, animal bones and burnt stones. A flint nodule was picked up here during field investigation. The remainder of the promontory is occupied by the grass covered foundations of about ten rectangular buildings with rounded corners, similar to those at the Brough of Deerness. A slight ridge along part of the E side of the promontory suggests that a wall or turf dyke ran along the cliff at this side.
Surveyed at 1/2500.
Visited by OS (ISS) 8 May 1973

ND 434 842 Castle of Burwick promontory fort, prehistoric
Sponsors: Historic Scotland, Orkney Archaeological Trust.
G Wilson and H Moore 1997.

August 1997
 FIELD VISIT

Project Coastal Assessment Survey of Burray, Flotta, Graemsay, Hoy and South Ronaldsay

Notes The remains of a defended Iron Age fort and probable secondary monastic settlement occupy a small promontory surrounded by sheer cliffs. The promontory is joined to the mainland by a narrow, eroding rocky ridge. Access to the ridge is restricted by three earthen and stone banks, which extend across the greater part of the neck; a short passage between the banks lies to the S side. The banks are up to 2m high and 5m wide. A series of ditches, which originally accompanied the banks, are now visible as shallow depressions. A fourth bank is situated on the landward side of the promontory. Traces of the footings of a rectangular structure (12m N-S) can be discerned to the rear of this bank. The remains of a further ten rectangular structures, with rounded corners, are spread over the promontory. The entire promontory is badly eroded and access is hazardous. Archaeological deposits can be seen eroding from several exposures on the promontory. The largest exposure lies to the NW side, where there has been recent large-scale ground slippage. Fragments of masonry and anthropogenic soil deposits are strewn over the sheer cliff sides. Deposits of stone and a silty soil containing shell can be seen in a smaller exposure to the E side of the promontory.
Moore and Wilson, 1997
Coastal Zone Assessment Survey


Further details

 
Books and References

DES (1976) 'Small finds', Discovery Excav Scot
Page(s): 72

Lamb, R G (1974c) 'Coastal settlements of the north', Scot Archaeol Forum, vol.5
Page(s): 78

Lamb, R G (1980a) Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles, Brit Archaeol Rep, BAR British, vol.79 Oxford
Page(s): 52, 53, 58, 76-7 Held at RCAHMS P.81

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