Risbebjerg is an archeological site containing both the remains of a Neolithic sun temple and Iron Age earthworks. Bordered by the Øleådalen valley, the site is marked by Iron Age earthworks consisting of semicircular ramparts 3 metres high and a dry ditch 2 metres deep, dating back some 2,000 years. There are also remains of a number of 5,000-year-old woodhenges, one of which has been recreated with stumps of wood in the original holes, giving an impression of the size of the ancient site. An observation tower provides information and views over the historic area.
The site was discovered in 1897, leading to finds near a spring of six flint axes and four flint chisels from the mid-Neolithic. The following year, a further 13 flint axes and two chisels were found, making it one of the principal sites for finds of flint axes and chisels. The fact that the finds were made near a spring indicated that the site had religious significance.
The site contains a number of ancient wooden circles from about 2,800 BC. Traces of the original wooden poles have been found and recently marked out with stumps of wood. From the clay pieces, burnt flint and burnt bones found on the site, it has been suggested that the circles may have served as a sun temple. They apparently supported a clay-covered platform, accessed by a flight of steps, on which experts believe fires could have been lit, possibly for sacrifices. Clay disks with ancient sun symbols have also been found, ritually buried under the poles. It appears as if the wooden circles were constructed over three separate periods.References:
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.