Developed hillforts

Thursday, October 23, 2008


At about that time – fourth century BC - whether as the result of local warfare or of peaceful negotiation, many small forts went out of use, leaving only a few larger hillforts that seem to have gained control over large areas, some of which correspond roughly with tribal areas known to us from later literature and coin evidence. These big forts were strongly defended, often with a number of banks and ditches and elaborate entrances, and their interiors were carefully planned along existing lines. Massive four-post and six-post granaries and storage pits predominated, but it was still not possible to identify new or extra large buildings that might suggest that the forts were the headquarters of paramount chiefs. Even so, at this time it is likely that warrior chieftains were beginning to emerge. Expanding population allowed for the growth of a warrior population that could be called upon for military help when necessary. Such soldiers might find a base in the hillforts, though their fighting might often have taken place in the open countryside. It is doubtful if these men should at first be seen as standing armies. They were probably of farming stock, and had undergone a period of military training so that they could be called to arms and pay their dues to the nobility in the form of military service. As time went by more and more became professional warriors and developed the skills of combat and chariotry, so that by the first century BC well trained tribal armies existed, and in the southeast could be called upon to combine their skills against Caesar in 55 and 54 BC.


The emphasis on forts as centres of storage and distribution seems to have increased as their more normal function from the fourth century BC. At Danebury (Hants) the defences were remodelled, occupation intensified and more roads were constructed. Hod Hill, Maiden Castle and South Cadbury all belong to this class which Cunliffe has called developed forts. In Wessex territories of about 150 sq. km. (58 sq. miles) emerged, each with a fort near its centre, suitably placed to reap the benefits of lush water meadows and fine hill pasture. On the Berkshire- Marlborough Downs, territories with similar facilities were smaller, about 100 sq. km. (39 sq. miles) around Uffington Castle, Liddington and Barbury. In the Chilterns, Ravensburgh and Wilbury may have dominated the same sort of areas. In parts of the Midlands, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Chilterns sets of dykes were constructed as part of a planned landscape.

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