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Roz Rambling Dun Ardtreck Broch
31 May 2013

It occurred to me one day that, though it dominates the view from my bedroom window, I really knew very little about the ruined broch.  I didn't even know its name.  Feeling rather forlorn about this, I decided to do some research.  I discovered some fascinating facts:

Dun Ardtreck Broch blends into its surroundings - grey on grey.  It melts into the muted colours of the hillside.  Up close, however, the broch starts to take shape as something larger than one of the ruined dwellings that dot the hillside.  Precisely square stones rise up to clearly form inner and outer walls, now about two meters high.  Some of the rocks are so overgrown with grass, that they seem to be growing out of the ground!  Lichen covers the stones in psychedelic yellow swirls.  The enclosed areas measure 10 meters by 13 meters.  The meter wide entrance is now a mere outline, but a guard cell on the right can be seen.  Even though it blends into the background today, once it dominated the hillside.

There are various schools of thought as to why brochs were built.  The theory of defence has been rejected by some archaeologists, but the Dun Ardtreck Broch was ideally situated in order to defend itself.  Once, it would have loomed skywards on its steep vantage point with a sheer drop to the sea on its west and a depression of low ground flanking its other sides.  Set on a knoll, the broch has an excellent view of the surroundings.

Construction was likely in the first or second century B.C. The broch was set into the sloping hillside, thus forming a D shape with the straight edge on the cliff side.  The seaward walls would probably have been about 2.4 meters high, while the landward walls would be about 4.8 meters high.  What is, perhaps, most striking about the walls is the thickness: 3.1 meters wide in some places!

In 1964 and 1965, Dr Ewan Mackie excavated the site.  The entrance was checked for a door, and an iron handle was recovered. Dr Mackie’s other findings indicated that the broch had two main periods of occupation.  The first seemed to be very short.  Very few finds date from this period, but the ones that came to light indicate this occupation ended with destruction and violence. 

A second occupation can be dated from the discovery of Antonine shards (pieces of earthenware that date back to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius,) to around the middle of the second century A.D.  Foundations of a possible hut were discovered, but most of the finds were in the broch interior, implying that this was the main dwelling place.  All the finds were domestic, including iron tools, glass-paste ring-heads, shards of the red Ancient Roman pottery called Samian, bronze ornaments and remnants of a Roman melon bead.

Along with these were pieces of pottery, thought to be from the Hebridean Iron Age, and many shards of vases.  It can be deduced from the remains that the broch was probably abandoned about A.D. 200-300.

Nowadays, instead of acting as a repellent, the broch is a major attraction.  Listed on many maps as an area of local interest, tourists can be seen making their way across the uneven, boggy land to get to Dun Ardtreck.  Its nostalgic value is priceless, as it serves as a reminder of the men who built it, a link to the past.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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