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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The First Hillfort

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Again, by kind permission of Professor Dixon: the continuation of the First Hillfort at Crickley section of "Crickley Hill and Gloucestershire Prehistory", the first part of which was posted here:

"Continental scholars have traced the growth of strongly fortified hill-settlements from 1200 BC onwards.  In Britain the development came later, with C14 dates not earlier than the 11th or 10th centuries BC, and most of the hillfort foundation-dates belong to the later period, to the three or four centuries after 700 BC. The first fort at Crickley was built early in this latter period perhaps in the 7th or 6th century.  The new rampart and ditch enclosed an area of some nine acres, more than double that of the causewayed enclosure, and provided a substantial barrier with a rock-cut ditch 2 m (6 ft) deep, and a drystone wall built of the stone taken from it at least 3 m (10 ft) high.  The entrance was a narrow timber-lined passage shut by two gates, and the defences were presumably capped by timber or wickerwork screens. 

Behind the entrance roadway ran between lines of buildings whose position is now marked only by the post holes in which their principal upright timbers were set.  Beside the roadway the buildings were probably large rectangular barn-like houses, and two more houses of this sort lay in the area of the abandoned near the enclosure - one, indeed, along the line of its ditch, as can be seen in the reconstruction drawing (figure 2).  Groups of small square huts, each supported on four posts, stood around the houses. 

None contained hearths, and they were probably intended for the storage of crops.  More irregular collections of post holes may have belonged to subsidiary buildings, such as drying racks, animal pens, hovels for farm implements, all roofed stack stands.  A variety of these structures is shown in the two reconstruction drawings of the hillfort periods, (figures 2 and 3) but there is, of course, no certainty in any of the versions adopted.

The houses so far uncovered (in about one third of the fort's total area) could perhaps have accommodated from 50 to 200 people: there is no way of estimating the density of settlement in the unexcavated area.  This community survived long enough to wear down the entrance roadway, but had gone, it seems, before the replacement of rotten timber in its houses became necessary: one generation, then, or two at the most.  The end was clearly abrupt.  The gates were burned, the walls slighted, and the houses destroyed by fire."

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