The Origins of British Hillforts: A comparative study of Late Bronze Age hillfort origins in the Atlantic West

Campbell, Lorrae
(2021) The Origins of British Hillforts: A comparative study of Late Bronze Age hillfort origins in the Atlantic West. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The Late Bronze Age in Britain (c. 1250–750 BC) was a period of economic and social reorganisation: agricultural and settlement patterns; funerary and depositional practices - all saw significant change and development. This thesis examines the evidence for the occupation and enclosure of hilltops in the Atlantic west of Britain during this formative period. Focusing on the reasons why communities started to come together at this time to construct these impressive monuments, this thesis provides information about how these communities were organising the landscape during a time when the first effects of climatic deterioration was beginning to be felt. Hilltop enclosures, rather than being marginal locations away from population centres, instead played an important role for communities navigating their way from the safe and settled world of the Middle Bronze Age to the emerging realities of life in a more unpredictable environment. The Atlantic west of Britain, which here encompasses Wales and the Marches and southwest England, is an area that until very recently has lagged behind the better known and more comprehensively studied central southern region of England. This thesis endeavours to show that far from being a peripheral region, communities in the Atlantic west were developing hilltop sites right across the landscape, providing a safe and central location for communal gatherings and pastoral farming. Maritime links across the Irish Sea to the Late Bronze Age hillforts of Ireland (O’Brien and O’Driscoll 2017) are explored to see whether the Atlantic west of Britain was a part of a wider region with a westwards focus, rather than one with links eastwards towards central southern England. By examining hilltop sites in terms of landscape location, settlement evidence, and material culture, the social drivers behind the development of these magnificent monuments have been reconstructed. They were built in locations designed to be seen across the landscape, providing a physical manifestation of community belonging for the people who constructed them. Whilst settlement evidence is sparse, the act of enclosing the space appears to have been the main driver. This, alongside the availability of water sources, suggests that they acted as hubs supporting seasonal transhumance activities associated with pastoral agriculture, akin to lowland middens. Together with the evidence for personal items, tools and weapons found on these hilltop sites, it is suggested that they also provided a location for communal gatherings and feasting designed to support community cohesion for a society in a state of flux. Ceramic evidence supports this, with tentative indications of interconnectivity being seen across the landscape. The results of this investigation will help contextualise the place in society that these hilltop sites had for the communities that built them in the Atlantic west, furthering our understanding of the Late Bronze Age as a transitional time when people were attempting to create stability in a changing world.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 08:35
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:30
DOI: 10.17638/03135296