Conservation of uncertain monuments: the case of prehistoric Scottish brochs
The sophisticated drystone Iron-Age brochs of Northern Scotland, called Complex Atlantic Roundhouses by archaeologists, have shown the high technological culture of the builders. Their conservation should be based on their key features (structure, materials, building type, and architectural elements), but there is little agreement on them because of the lack of confirmation for a standard broch scheme and the need for excavations for further archaeological research. This topic has an interdisciplinary complexity that should weigh both the values of the prehistoric attributes of brochs and the architectural features on sites. Since the brochs are not fully understood, they could be seen as ‘uncertain’ monuments. This research challenges the common conservation strategies by proposing a conservation theory framework, taking prehistoric Scottish brochs as a paradigm of universal monuments conserved without knowing the origin. The conservation of uncertain monuments would discuss the brochs' life as a whole, up to including the C19 early discoveries, current activities, as well as the potential future discoveries and site changes, leading to open-ended conceptual principles, which would help further understanding of the intrinsic relationships between brochs' various uncertainties. Archaeological research shows the monumental brochs were indeed modified, repaired, or reconstructed in their history, possibly over 500 years, which is an important part of their characters. The conservation of brochs in our times, which is often just consolidation repairs for safety led by archaeology, is argued in this research that should be guided by typological studies to interpret the monuments from architectural perspectives. The typological study would create subtypes of brochs that demonstrate regional features and provide additional and vital layers where information from archaeology is fragmentary. At present, the origin and design evolution of brochs are still conjectural, lacking historic evidence, while their remains are fragmentary ruins, so their conservation should include reflections of both their uncertain, intangible origin and evidence on modifications, which would be treated equally as part of the character that architectural interventions aim to conserve. The whole life of brochs should be interpreted scientifically in conservation and communicated with the ‘mystery’ that corresponds to such uncertainties to the public, also considering potential tourism. This thesis broadly uses typological studies to understand brochs features, realising they should not be treated as individual objects in conservation but be interpreted as a collection at various levels.