Hillforts in the Landscape
Hillforts in the Landscape
Landscape in common usage refers to the physical landforms of hills, valleys, rivers, and lakes, together with vegetational cover that may have changed significantly over the centuries depending upon environmental factors as well as the impact of human settlement. It may also refer to the man-made landscape of buildings and settlements, roads and boundaries made by human occupation over the centuries. Although field archaeologists tend to focus their attention upon ‘sites’, it has long been recognized that individual settlements cannot have functioned in isolation from their environment, nor from their neighbours in the landscape. Equally important, although at the limits of archaeological inference, is how later prehistoric people viewed their own environment, which can hardly have been a matter of ignorance or indifference. The fact that a Neolithic long barrow extends down the spine of the hillfort at Hambledon Hill, or that a causewayed enclosure lies concentrically within the circuit at the Trundle in Sussex, may not have determined the hillfort's location, but it is hardly likely that Iron Age builders were unaware of their antiquity and significance. Landscape archaeology is often wrongly regarded as a recent contribution to field archaeology. Following the long-term excavations at Danebury of the 1970s and 1980s, the Danebury Environs Project still stands as one of the most significant advances in hillfort studies, together with landscape surveys around Maiden Castle, Dorset, and Cadbury Castle among others. A pioneer in this field was Christopher Hawkes, encouraged from the 1920s by O. G. S. Crawford. In the St Catharine's Hill report, Hawkes had stated explicitly that his purpose was to show ‘the place occupied by the hill settlement in the life of the contemporary countryside’ (Hawkes et al. 1930: 6), and in his Hampshire hillfort excavations of the 1930s he demonstrated this principle, notably at Quarley Hill (Hawkes 1939), where his excavation was designed to elucidate the relationship between hillfort and those linear features that physically linked it to its surrounding landscape. The Danebury excavation was the ultimate sequel to Hawkes’ Hampshire hillfort campaign, and with its Environs Programme, extended the study of the hillfort in its landscape context on a scale never previously practicable. This entailed a study of documentary sources and air photographs as well as field survey with selective excavation.
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