Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Second Hillfort

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Again, by kind permission of Professor Dixon: the Second Hillfort at Crickley section of "Crickley Hill and Gloucestershire Prehistory" from 1977:

"After the burning of the first fort the site was abandoned for several years at least, while silt layers and turf formed above the ruins.  Rebuilding began piecemeal: the old walls were patched up and a new gate inserted into damaged entrance.  Subsequently this gate was massively rebuilt in a single operation and was now defended by a pair of stone bastions, approach being checked by a second gate in a large outwork.  Behind this spectacular and formidable obstacle the settlement was replanned: a great round house, nearly 50 feet in diameter, stood directly beyond the inner gate; around it lay an irregular ring of smaller roundhouses; further away small square buildings in clusters were presumably used as granaries, and other groups of postholes, in pairs or similar arrangements, may be seen as the remains of ancillary buildings like those of the earliest settlement; (see figure 3).  A radiocarbon date from the new gateway suggests a date for the rebuilt fort not later than the late 6th or the early 5th century BC.

The difference in building techniques is striking, and the new community used a fine decorated pottery quite distinct from that of the first hillfort.  To regard the inhabitants as newcomers seems reasonable, but they will not have come from far away, for similar pottery-styles (and similar houses) were in fashion in contemporary sites in the mid and upper Thames basin.

The life of the second hillfort may well also have been short: the new cobbled road through the entrance was worn and patched, but there were no signs of repair or rebuilding the postholes either of the houses or of the defences.  Despite its massive ramparts the fort was attacked and captured: the houses were burnt, a thick layer of charcoal covered the cobbled road, and the walls of the bastions were reddened by fire.

Other sites to see

Of the many hill forts of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds only Leckhampton, near Cheltenham, has produced evidence of an occupation broadly contemporary with that at Crickley, ending in a similar destruction.  Excavation has shown that the Leckhampton rampart belongs to a single period of building, with a few scraps of pottery resembling that of the second Crickley hillfort.

Nothing is yet known of the houses inside Leckhampton, but roundhouses are familiar from many sites in Britain.  Small roundhouses (based on examples found at the later Iron Age sites ofConderton, near Bredon, Worcs., and Glastonbury, Somerset) may be seen reconstructed at the Avoncroft Museum near Bromsgrove; a large roundhouse, modelled on the house excavated at Pimperne, Dorset, has recently been built at the experimental Iron Age farm on Little Butser Hill, near Petersfield, Hants.

Further Reading

D. Harding, The Iron Age in Lowland Britain (1974),  B. Cunliffe, Iron Age Communities in Britain (1974), B. Cunliffe, 'The Iron Age' in British Prehistory, ed. C. Renfrew (1974), Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, Ancient and Historical Monuments in the County of  
Gloucester, Vol. 1: Iron Age and Romano-British Monuments in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds (1976)"

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