Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fourth Report, 1972: Part V

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Today, with thanks to PWD for permission, the final part of the Fourth Report from 1972:

"The Period 3 Settlement

The Period 2 settlement was destroyed by fire, presumably at the same time as the burning of the Period 2 defences.  Before the laying of the Period 3b road surface a large roundhouse was built across the western end of House 2.  The post circle of this house was 11.6 m in diameter, but outside it, to the north, perhaps platform formed a shelf about 3 cm higher than the surrounding bedrock; this shelf, produced by traffic wear around the house, ran from 1.7 m to 2.4 m outside the circle; on the south side a burnt streak and clusters of burnt daub continued the line, which is taken to represent a wattled partition framed, like those of the Period 2 houses, on sleeper beams resting on the ground surface.  The porch lay on the west side, facing away from the entrance to the hillfort, and appears to have been supported by diagonal braces set in slots.

The total diameter of the roundhouse was about 14.8 m.  A number of post holes whose dating is uncertain lay within the circle.  Some may belong to partitions at the west end of House 2 of Period 2: postholes 522, 541 and 542 probably associated with the roundhouse, but none were substantial enough to have held up the roof.  No central support was possible, for a hearth lay in the middle of the house, and while roof supporting posts might have rested on the ground surface (producing a tower-like structure similar to that proposed for Little Woodbury roundhouse (Bersu, 1940) no evidence of this is likely to be forthcoming.  Like the roundhouses of similar size, and apparently similar construction, at Pimperne or Longbridge Deveril, the roof construction of the Crickley roundhouse is problematic.

To the south west of House 4 two small hearths were surrounded by clusters of small postholes.  Further holes, both small and large, lay to the south of the roundhouse and to the north of House 1.  For none are there adequate grounds to allow period attribution, and all are shown in figure 5 as of uncertain period.  The excellent preservation of the hearths might suggest ascription to the final phase of occupation, and this, more tentatively, might be indicated by the undue proximity of one of the structures to the front of House 5.  The post holes around hearth 801 could be seen as a trapezoidal building: heavy burning to the south of the hearth had reduced the bedrock to quicklime, an intense heat that suggests some industrial function from the building.  The internal post holes were perhaps to support a frame around hearth itself.  No clear pattern can be made of the post holes in other areas, and, as flimsy shelters, drying racks or similar two or more pos-structures, some may belong to the Period 2 and others too are shown for convenience, on the Period 3 plan (figure 6).

If the Period 3a defences are correctly interpreted as a temporary re-fortification of the hilltop after the Period 2 destruction (Dixon, 1970), the roundhouse may have been built during Period a 3a.  It was burnt down during the destruction of the 3b and  defences, and the site was then abandoned.


The decorated sherds of fine fabric with incised linear ornament (illustrated and described in Dixon, 1971) which came from the info of the latest rampart (Period 3b) are now closely matched by pottery from the postholes of the Period 2 roundhouse.  Almost all the material from the Period 2 post holes, however, consists of sherds of coarse fabric with sagging shoulders and irregular rims; the only decorated sherd comes from the post-pipes of the five-post  structure between Houses 1 and 3, and presumably  relates to the period after the Period 2 settlement. 

This break in the ceramic tradition, whatever interpretation be put upon it, should therefore be placed between Period 2 and Period 3a, a period which saw the change from longhouse to roundhouse, and also from daub filled with grit to clean sifted daub in the wattling of these buildings.

Comparanda for the pottery should be treated with caution in view of the paucity of the material.  The closest parallels for the sherds of the latest period appear to come from the Upper Thames (references given in Dixon 1971), in context now ascribed to the initial stages of the Iron Age and dated not later than the sixth century BC (Harding, 1972).  The cultural context of the longhouses is at present quite uncertain.  Analysis of strata deposited by erosion between Period 2 and Period 3a indicated no considerable time-span (Dixon, 1970) but calibration of this in terms of years, decades or even centuries is hardly possible.

The longhouses themselves are of a type seldom recognized in Britain.  At Park Brow in Sussex (Wolseley, 1925) a ten-poster longhouse was associated with Hallstadt pottery, and a very few others have been noticed in Wales, Scotland, and, conjecturally, on the Thames (Harding 1972, pp 34-5) But on the continent the longhouse type, many with evidence of byres as true longhouses is predominant in many areas from the Neolithic onwards.  The discovery of an extensive regularly planned settlement of longhouses at Crickley is thus an unexpected outcome of the 1972 season.  Although the dearth of insular parallels draws attention to origins on the continent, it is any reasonable to suppose that further settlements of this sort still await discovery, on new sites or perhaps even among reports of old excavations.

Future work

In 1973 we shall continue the excavation of the area behind the entrance, and hope to reveal more of both the longhouse and the roundhouse settlements.  The work requires volunteers and adequate financing to augment the generous support of the Gloucestershire College. Donations (to the Crickley Hill Fund) and offers of assistance should be sent to the Secretary of the excavations, Mr.  R. D. A.  Savage, Gloucestershire College of Art and Design,, Cheltenham Glos., GL52 3JG from whom further copies of these notes, and copies of the notes on previous seasons, may be obtained (1969, 15p 1970 and 1971, 25p all plus 5p for postage etc.).  Persons interested in taking part in future seasons of excavation in this series should get in touch with Mr Savage at the address given (telephone Cheltenham 32501).


Bersu, 1940: ‘Excavation at Little Woodbury’, Proc. Prehist.Soc. VI

Dixon, 1969, 1970, 1971: 1st 2nd and 3rd interim reports (Gloucestershire College of Art and Design in Cheltenham)

Harding, 1972: The Iron Age in the Upper Thames Basin

Soudsky, 1969: ‘Etude de la maison Neolithique’, Slovenska Archaeologia XVII

Stanford, 1970: ‘Credenhill Camp…’ Arch. Journal CXVII

Waterbolk, 1964: ‘The Bronze Age Settlement of Elp’ Helinium 4

Wolseley et al, 1925: ‘Prehistoric and Roman Settlements on Park Brow’ Archaeologia LXXVI"

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