Heritage: Jarlshof in Shetland

Images courtesy of Historic Scotland

Jarlshof is perhaps the best known prehistoric site in Shetland with remains dating from 2500 BC right up to the 17th century AD.

Computer reconstruction of the Broch as it might have looked like
Computer reconstruction of the Broch as it might have looked like
The earliest settlers from the Bronze Age lived in small oval houses with thick stone walls. By the Iron Age, there were several different types of structure including a broch and a defensive wall around the site. The Vikings left a lot behind them. These ruins, including a longhouse, are the largest site visible anywhere in Britain. Some of these remains were only discovered after a storm at the end of the 19th Century.

The name ‘Jarshof’ itself was coined by Sir Walter Scott and it appeared in his novel ‘The Pirate’. The name stuck and was first attached to a Scottish fortified manor house and now to the site as a whole which is in the care of Historic Scotland. Earlier this year, it supported a project to create this short computer generated film by Kieran Baxter which tells the story of Jarlshof through the ages.

The film drew on aerial photographs taken from a kite-suspended camera – it needed to have special permission because it was so close to Sumburgh Airport. The project was completed at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, part of the University of Dundee. Glasgow School of Art was also involved in creating the speculative reconstructions of lost buildings, based on aerial photographs from a number of other sites across Scotland.

The film is now on display in the museum at Jarlshof where it can be seen to full effect accompanied by an exploration of the site itself. More of the story and images behind the project can be found here.