Brochs, unique to Scotland, are amongst the most studied monuments in British prehistory. A broch is a drystone tower with cells or galleries contained within the thickness of the wall. During the 19th century, Caithness was a hot-bed of scientific and intellectual activity. Much attention focussed on the brochs, particularly those on the north-eastcoast, and pioneering work was undertaken by Alexander H. Rhind and Joseph Anderson. Both men were brilliant scholars: the architecture and artefacts they uncovered laid the foundations for all further studies of brochs.

The end of the 19th- and beginning of the 20th-centuries was another hectic period in the study of Caithness brochs. More than a site a year was being excavated. Activity was dominated by two key individuals with strong ties to the local community: Sir Francis Tress Barry and John Nicolson. Barry undertook a series of broch excavations around Sinclair'ss Bay and has excavated more brochs than any other individual. John Nicolson was a renowned archaeologist and was absolutely integral to all of Barry's excavations. Many other members of the local community also volunteered to help Tress Barry in his undertakings. Their contributions were critical to the discovery, recording and curation of some of these most important monuments and assemblages from Scottish prehistory.