The sun was shining some of the time today, so I travelled down to the southern  tip of the island to visit Jarlshof.  I have come here on every trip to Shetland, and am awed everytime. The history and evolving shapes and forms are captivating.  There is now an excellent visitor centre and interpretive trail with an audio guide. I appreciate having had the freedom to run and climb among the buildings as a young child, and now also for the in depth historical interpretation and the restrictions on movement that will preserve these ancient buildings. 

The buildings here date from 2500 BC to the 1600’s AD, with great examples of the iron age broch, wheelhouses from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, a Norse settlement from the 800’s through the 1200’s, a medieval farm and laird’s house built in 1580.  Each period of history has distinctive forms of architecture.

The ruins of them now present amazing circle and line forms. I am certain these will be coming up a lot in my work here.  These are architectural bones; these buildings held the lives of the people here and their stories, and the line patterns left by the structures are like so many patterns we see in maps….present at every scale.   Everywhere here is the multitude of greys, with strong contrasts in the blues of sea and sky and intense greens and golds of grass and lichen.

Spindle whorls and weaving tools have bee found in the iron age sites, indicating advances in textile work.  The stone querns or grinding stones are from the bronze age and have strong lines but are softly rounded. Beautiful, ancient inspiration for sculptural pieces.

I love the contrast of the long, linear walls of the Norse period in contrast with the curving, notched walls of the older periods.  I will be spending  more time here and the other archaeological sites in Shetland. The shapes inspire me, in every way, as three dimensional forms, and also in patterns as surface relief. 

To learn more about this stunning site, watch this beautiful and informative video by Kieran Baxter.

Jarlshof from Kieran Baxter on Vimeo.