Sunday, 12 September 2010

Iron Age hill forts

As you may have worked out I've been in Dorset recently and have got to visit a couple of Iron Age hillforts recently.

The first was Blackbury(sic) Camp on the outskirts of Beer.

The ramparts are still relatively high, showing an unusual entrance feature. The fort occupies the end of a large ridge at some 185 metres (607 ft) above sea level.

It was defended by a single bank and ditch, forming a roughly D-shaped enclosure.

A triangular barbican was added to the south but was never completed.

The fort was probably occupied in the second and first centuries BC by a cattle-farming community.

The second one, that I got to see on my 44th birthday, was Maiden Castle in Dorset, the best preserved Iron Age fort in the UK.

Originally built during the Bronze Age it was remodelled to finally posses a very complicated east and west gateway arrangment.

The defensive ramparts, and their steepness, also need to be seen to be believed.
The site also boasts a small 4th century Romano-British temple, constructed long after to site was abandoned. Based on a plaque discovered during its excavation the dedication was to Minerva.
Finally, to the north east, you can see a large Bronze Age round barrow ("bell barrow" form).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Archaeology in the rain....

Well, I guess yesterday with an utter downpour from lunchtime through to 7pm wasn't the time to enthuse my partner Val and her sister in archaeological sites.
We'd just left Portland Bill in heavy rain where they both spent some very happy childhood years (including lunch in the Lobster Pot but they no longer serve "Hubbly Bubbly" to drink) when I slammed the anchors on the car and stuck it into reverse. I hadn't noticed it on the way down there but there was a mesolithic site, Culverwell, on out way back.

Culverwell mesolithic settlement

A small settlement site, now just a series of grassy mounds, from c.5-6,000 years BC was evidence of a semi sedentry life, living off seafood in early Britain.

We continued on to Weymouth and the rain continued to pound. Having driven along the seafront I took my captive passengers to a small Roman temple site on the eastern edge of town, located on Jordan Hill.

Weymouth Roman temple

There is little, other than the foundations of the interior structure of the shrine, that is visible on the hill but the sea views are impressive and also this would have been clearly visible from the sea . Sadly this was not the day to appreciate them. There is no information as to whom the temple was dedicated but given the position Neptune (for the sea) or Mercury (for trade) would not be out of place.

The final treat for my passengers was a visit to the Cerne Abbas giant.

The "Giant" through the rain

The figure, carved into the hillside, was only just visible given the appaling weather. Naked (apart from sheep), and holding a club (with a "cloak" still uncovered on the other arm) the figure looks like a crude representation of Hercules. The date does prove something of a conundrum. Some postulate it is Roman or sub Roman, whilst others suggest it is of a much later date, 17th century perhaps, being first recorded in documents of 1694.