The return to hill forts in the Dark Ages : what can this tell us about post-Roman Britain?

Anderson, Helen (2013) The return to hill forts in the Dark Ages : what can this tell us about post-Roman Britain? thesis, University of Wales, Trinity St David.

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Abstract

There are around 2000 known hill forts in Britain, with some 1300 in England, another 600 in Wales and the remainder in Scotland. The overwhelming majority of these hill forts had their heyday in the Iron Age and were abandoned by the end of the first century. There is, however, evidence of a much longer period of use at many forts, stretching back as far as the Neolithic. Some of these forts were also re-fortified during the fifth to seventh centuries, in the post-Roman or early medieval period. Interestingly, some new forts, such as that at the Mote of Mark, seem to have been built during this time. This ‘occupation’ appears to have come to an end in the late seventh century. Since Leslie Alcock’s excavation of the hill fort at Dinas Powys in the 1950s, his interpretation of these sites as the ‘high status’ residences of British kings and princes has been widely accepted.1 This view was based on the archaeological evidence of extensive fortifications, luxury imports, fine tableware and possible ‘feasting halls’ found at these sites. However, I believe that this is not the only possible interpretation of these finds. My research questions ask who may have re-occupied these hill forts, why they might have done this and what the hill top locations may have been used for. I believe that answers to these questions could shed some light on conditions in post-Roman Britain. This dissertation is based on a comparative case study of three well-documented excavations of hill forts: Dinas Powys in Wales, South Cadbury in Somerset and the Mote of Mark in Scotland. I chose these sites because, although the latter two were investigated as early as 1890, all three have seen relatively modern excavations which have been published and discussed in great detail in the literature. Dinas Powys and South Cadbury were excavated by Alcock in the 1950s and late 1960s, respectively. The Mote of Mark was thoroughly re-excavated by Lloyd Laing and David Longley in the 1970s. In addition, all three sites are within the ‘Irish Sea Province’ on the western side of Britain and have access to sea trading routes. All 1 Leslie Alcock, Dinas Powys: an Iron Age, Dark Age and Early Medieval Settlement in Glamorgan (University of Wales Press, 1963), (p. 55). 2 three forts are known to have been re-fortified in the fifth and sixth centuries. I believed that an in-depth study of the similarities and differences between the three sites might indicate a common purpose for re-use. As well as the excavation reports from my chosen sites, I have studied the literature on post-Roman Britain, particularly environmental changes, such as possible flooding and cooling. I also made a study of the near contemporary literary sources of Gildas2 and Patrick.

Item Type: Thesis (UNSPECIFIED)
Additional Information: Series: Carmarthen / Lampeter Dissertations.;.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fortifications, Prehistoric, Middle Ages
Divisions: Theses and Dissertations > Masters Dissertations
Depositing User: John Dalling
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2014 16:49
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2016 08:52
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/378

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