History of Sweden between 500 BC - 1 BC
The archaeological record for the 5th-3rd centuries BC is rich in rural settlements and remains of agriculture but very poor in artefacts. This is mainly due to extremely austere burial customs where few people received formal burial and those who did got little in the way of grave goods. There is little indication of any social stratification. Bronze importation ceased almost entirely and local iron production started in earnest.
A typical Clearance cairn from Eglinton Country Park in Scotland, The climate took a turn for the worse, forcing farmers to keep cattle indoors over the winters, leading to an annual build-up of manure that could now for the first time be used systematically for soil improvement. Fields were however still largely impermanent, leading to the gradual coalescence of vast systems of sunken fields or clearance cairns where only small parts were tilled at any one time. From the 2nd century BC onward, urn cremation cemeteries and weapon burials with various above-ground stone markers appear, beginning a monumental cemetery record that persists unbroken until the end of the Iron Age. Cemeteries of these roughly 13 centuries are by far the most common type of visible ancient monument in Scandinavia. The reappearance of weapon burial after millennium's hiatus suggests a process of increased social stratification similar to the one at the beginning of the Bronze Age.
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.