Archaeology in Shetland

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  • Broch of Clickimin
    Broch of Clickimin
  • Mousa Broch, Mousa
    Mousa Broch, Mousa
  • Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick
    Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick

With more than 6,000 archaeological sites, Shetland's fascinating history can be seen everywhere across its islands. Even today, ancient clues and buried secrets are still being discovered, dating back to the islands' first Mesolithic settlers

What history enthusiasts find endlessly fascinating about Shetland is the sheer variety of its archaeological sites. A great place to begin discovering these historical attractions is at Staneydale Temple on the West Mainland. Explore these Neolithic remnants of what was perhaps the hall of a chieftain at the centre of a group of ruins that date from 2500 BC.

Bronze Age Bressay! is also a must visit for those in search of archaeological treasures. This ground-breaking community project rescued the prehistoric Burnt Mound of Cruester from coastal erosion by moving the site, stone by stone, to a safe place.

There is evidence that more than one hundred Iron Age brochs once stood on Shetland. One of the most accessible and best-preserved examples of these is found at Clickimin just outside Lerwick. Another is Old Scatness Broch, the remnants of an ancient village that lay buried for almost 2,000 years before being unearthed by archaeologists.

Standing at a height of more than 13 m, Mousa Broch is one of Europe’s archaeological marvels. After a short boat crossing from Sandwick to the island of Mousa, you can climb the narrow steps to the top of the world’s best-preserved broch and take in incredible views across Mousa Sound.

Unst is believed to be where the fearsome Viking warriors first settled in Shetland, and this remote island is home to more remains of Viking longhouses than anywhere else in the world, including Scandinavia. As part of the Viking Unst Project, archaeologists have used knowledge acquired from excavations to construct a replica of a longhouse complete with dry stone walls and a turf roof. Next to it you’ll find the authentically reconstructed longship Skidbladnir.

Be amazed at the range of archaeological treasures in one place at Jarlshof in the South Mainland. Explore the remains of ancient housing spanning thousands of years including a Norse settlement, medieval farmstead, Iron Age broch and Pictish wheelhouses, all located within close proximity of one another.

Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick is also a fantastic place to find a variety of archaeology artefacts. Discover Shetland’s history from its geological beginnings to the present day, exploring the lives of these fascinating people through the ages.