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 Hill Forts

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PostSubject: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 12:28

A new project has just completed mapping 4,000+ Iron Age hill forts of Britain and Ireland.

The link will take you to a site which explains in greater detail;

Hill Forts

there is a further link to the actual map site in the above. Unfortunately it is an app for mobile devices and does not appear on computers.

Hill Forts (BBC)
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 13:29

Dunadd hill fort in Argyll. believed to have been the capital of Dal Riada:

Dunadd

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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 13:36

Aerial view (1935) of Maiden Castle in Dorset, one of the largest hill forts in Europe:

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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 13:46

Excellent find, Trike,. Thanks.

BBC article wrote:
Despite the name, not all hill forts are on hills, and not all are forts, the experts said.

The second bit in that sentence is the important one. As misnomers in archaeology go, the designation of "hill fort" for any boundary enclosure (especially on a relative prominence) which has happened to survive ranks up there with "the Bronze Age" and "Passage Grave" as being beyond their use-by date and really in need of renaming. This apparently superficial exercise of assembling them into one online reference work (academically such an exercise has been done on traditional paper many times over) might actually be the catalyst for finally addressing this rather misleading description which in the past has led to so much fallacious assumptions that historians and archaeology lecturers worth their salt have had to spend such an inordinate amount of time debunking in students' heads, often at the huge expense of time that could have been better employed actually teaching them something worthwhile (instead of unteaching them something worthless).

A perfect illustration of how silly a term "hill fort" actually is can be seen in the Wikipedia entry for the subject, where a conscientious editor has insisted on the following checklist of criteria which must be taken into account when assessing a "hill fort's" actual purpose - or even purposes - on the part of its builders and sometimes several hundred generations of people afterwards who utilised and re-utilised it:

Location
Hilltop Contour: the classic hill fort; an inland location with a hilltop defensive position surrounded by artificial ramparts or steep natural slopes. Examples: Brent Knoll, Mount Ipf.
Inland Promontory: an inland defensive position on a ridge or spur with steep slopes on 2 or 3 sides, and artificial ramparts on the level approaches. Example: Lambert's Castle.
Interfluvial: a promontory above the confluence of two rivers, or in the bend of a meander. Examples: Kelheim, Miholjanec.
Lowland: an inland location without special defensive advantages (except perhaps marshes), but surrounded by artificial ramparts; typical of later settled oppida. Examples: Maiden Castle, Old Oswestry, Stonea Camp.
Sea Cliff: a semi-circular crescent of ramparts backing on to a straight sea cliff; common on rocky Atlantic coasts, such as Ireland and Wales. Examples: Daw's Castle, Dinas Dinlle, Dún Aengus.
Sea Promontory: a linear earthwork across a narrow neck of land leading to a peninsula with steep cliffs to the sea on three sides; common on indented Atlantic coasts, such as Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany and west Wales. Examples: Huelgoat; The Rumps and other promontory forts of Cornwall.
Sloping Enclosure or Hill-slope enclosure: smaller earthwork on gently sloping hillsides; not significant defensive position. Examples: Goosehill Camp, Plainsfield Camp, Trendle Ring.
Area
> 20 ha: very large enclosures, too diffuse to defend, probably used for domesticated animals. Example: Bindon Hill.
1–20 ha: defended areas large enough to support permanent tribal settlement. Example: Scratchbury Camp
< 1 ha: small enclosures, more likely to be individual farmsteads or animal pens. Example: Trendle Ring.
Ramparts, walls and ditches
Univallate: a single circuit of ramparts for enclosure and defence. Example: Solsbury Hill.
Bivallate : a double circuit of defensive earthworks. Example: Battlesbury Camp.
Multivallate: more than one layer of defensive earthworks, outer works might not be complete circuits, but defend the weakest approaches; typically the inner circuit is original, with outer circuits added later. Example: Cadbury Castle.
Entrances
Simple opening: might indicate an enclosure, rather than a defended position; sometimes the main ramparts may turn inward or outward, and be widened and heightened to control the entrance. Example: Dowsborough.
Linear holloway: straight parallel pair of ramparts dominating the entrance; projecting either inward, outward, or occasionally overlapped along the main rampart. Example: Norton Camp.
Complex: multiple overlapping outer works; staggered or interleaved multivallate ramparts; zig-zag entrance way, sling platforms and well planned lines of fire. Example: Maiden Castle.


Some forts were also settlements, while others were only occupied seasonally, or in times of strife. Archaeological excavation reveals more about the dates of occupation and modes of use. Typical features for excavation include:

Ramparts and ditches
Original depths and profiles of ditches.
Rampart construction: murus gallicus, pfostenschlitzmauer.
Guardhouses and defended entrances.
Settlement and occupation
Raised platforms, roundhouses, longhouses.
Post holes for rectangular granary huts.
Pits for food storage, souterrains, fogous.
Pottery
Coins, jewellery and hoards.
Temples and peacetime burials
Platforms and temple foundations.
Graves and offerings
Warfare
Weapons: sling-shot, shields, armour, swords, axes, spears, arrows.
Sieges and conquest: ballista bolts, ash layers, vitrified stones, burnt post holes.
Wartime burials: typically outside the ramparts:
Contemporary individual burials by local inhabitants.
Massed grave pits dug by a conquering army.
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 14:24

Some examples have been subjected to Vitrification. Exactly why this was done is not clear.

Vitrified Fort

Vitrified ramparts at Tap o' Noth, Aberdeenshire;

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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Thu 22 Jun 2017, 17:46

Ah excellent Trike. I read the article yesterday and was going to open a topic here on it, and then completely forgot. sigh.

I was amazed to read that there were so many across Ireland and the UK. Fascinating.
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Fri 23 Jun 2017, 10:09

An example of how misleading "hill fort" is as a term.



This "rath" in the townland of Clanabogan, County Tyrone (in Ireland we never mistakenly believed these had ever been built by the Romans, the origin of the misnomer which holds sway in English) is officially classed as a "hill fort" in the recently compiled database. It is neither a fort nor on a hill, as can be seen, and defies therefore even the traditional "ring fort" definition - also applied largely by English historians and antiquarians over the last few centuries. In fact even the accuracy of describing it as a rath is questionable. Today it serves quite handily as an animal enclosure for the farmer who presently owns it, which two thousand years ago was probably what it was used for anyway.

(apologies to Kenneth Allen for borrowing his image from Wikimedia)
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Fri 23 Jun 2017, 13:14

Back when I was a little girl guide dressed in blue we camped at Beaudesert on Cannock Chase where "Castle Ring" fort is situated (well we weren't camping in the actual fort). My teen (or was it pre-teen?) self was expecting to see a medieval fortress! There's also Bury Ring http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=4979 in the local (to me) area.
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Fri 23 Jun 2017, 13:32

They're is quite a number of them scattered about, LiR.

Cadbury Castle in Somerset. Reputedly the site of Camelot:Cadbury Castle



Not just in the British Isles. They are also a feature of the Castro Culture of North West Iberia:

Castro Culture



wiki:

Castro culture  is the archaeological term for the material Celtic culture of the north-western regions of the Iberian Peninsula (present-day northern Portugal together with Galicia, western Asturias and north western León) from the end of the Bronze Age (c. 9th century BC) until it was subsumed by Roman culture (c. 1st century BC). The most notable characteristics of this culture are: its walled oppida and hill forts, known locally as castros, from Latin castrum "castle", and the scarcity of visible burial practices, in spite of the frequent depositions of prestige items and goods, swords and other metallic riches in rocky outcrops, rivers and other aquatic contexts since the Atlantic Bronze Age. This cultural area extended east to the Cares river and south into the lower Douro river valley.
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Fri 23 Jun 2017, 14:06

@nordmann wrote:
Today it serves quite handily as an animal enclosure for the farmer who presently owns it, which two thousand years ago was probably what it was used for anyway.

Nords, about 26 minutes in, earthen droveways for driving livestock:(and, according to Mr Pryor, unique to the British Isles)

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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Fri 23 Jun 2017, 14:47

Oh that's interesting, Trike. I've heard of the Celto-Iberians of course but I've never studied them. I don't suppose any Celtic languages have survived in remote parts of Iberia (or at least the Celto-Iberian part)? I think somebody (not here) had suggested that the Basque language might have Celtic roots but I think the accepted view is that Basque is too different from other Celtic languages for that school of thought to hold water.
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Tue 18 Jul 2017, 14:11

Here is an aerial video of the Brown and White Caterthuns, hilltop enclosures in Angus, with a suggested reconstruction.
Hint: switch off the irritating music!

Brown and White Caterthuns
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PostSubject: Re: Hill Forts   Tue 18 Jul 2017, 14:33

That was good, even with the music.

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