key sites

holocene vegetation



Scord of Brouster

Significance: an impressive Neolithic settlement site which can be linked to major changes in the surrounding environment

The site (HU 256517) lies between 30-50 m close to the head of Gruting Voe in west Mainland. It comprises structures, a field system and clearance cairns, features described in a detailed monograph (Whittle et al. 1986). Occupation of the site was underway by 4540 yr BP and continued until at least 1700 years ago. The field walls are covered by 0.75 m of peat.

Prior to Neolithic clearance, the site was clothed by birch-hazel woodland, with willow and rowan. A tall herb community consisting of Filipendula and Apiaceae also existed, a vegetation type now largely confined on Shetland to cliff ledges and islands inaccessible to sheep and rabbits. Major woodland clearance began after 4680 BP, indicated both by changes in pollen concentration and by the presence of charcoal from these trees within the built area. Small amounts of cereal pollen are also recorded. From 3450 BP, heather expanded, suggesting podzolisation of soils and the encroachment of peat. Peat had covered fields within the enclosure by 1830 BP.