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Title: Aspects of Hillfort and Hill-top settlement in Somerset. In the first to eighth centuries A.D.
Author: Burrow, I. C. G.
ISNI:       0000 0000 6740 8079
Awarding Body: University of Birmingham
Current Institution: University of Birmingham
Date of Award: 1979
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This thesis is an examination of the phenomenon of the use and reuse of hillforts and hill-top sites during the period between the end of the pre-Roman Iron Age and the end of the seventh century A. D. It attempts to resolve particular questions about the extent to which such sites were used, at what times, and for what purposes. The former administrative county of Somerset defines the geographical scope of the work, and the evidence from this area is related to the wider British (and to a lesser extent the European) context. In addition to these specific goals, the research upon which this study is based was directed towards the establishment of a methodology for the topic which might act as a model for future work of the same kind. There has thus been a considerable emphasis on the examination of types of evidence in order to assess their more general relevance to the problems here dealt with at a regional level. After an initial discussion, consideration is therefore given to the available information specifically relating to Somerset hillforts - their morphology, distribution, function, and pre-Roman chronology in so far as this is relevant to subsequent developments. The value of the evidence of place names and of Celtic church dedications is also assessed. This material is considered both in relation to the hillforts and hill-top sites themselves, and also in order to assess its value for the understanding of the general background of settlement. A programme. of. field survey of all, known hillfort and, enclosure, sites forms the basis for the discussion of the. earthwork evidence. From this data it is argued that the evaluation of the surface evidence from hillfort and kindred sites, despite its severe limitations and the need to consider it in relation to other data, has an important and insufficiently explored role to play in the study of the later'history of these sites. A number of'hillforts are discussed in detail. ii The potential and limitations of the evidence from excavations and of unstratified artifactual material have both been explored in some depth. It is concluded that past excavation strategies have been both biased and on too small a scale to provide any sound basis for an assessment of the extent or purpose of hillfort/hill-top use to be made. This point is emphasized in consideration of the approach adopted at Cadbury Congresbury (hereafter normally abbreviated to Cadcong) for investigation of the fifth to seventh century occupation there. A fundamental problem at this site was the chronological and functional status of the Roman material discovered in excavation. Models which may explain the presence of such material are discussed prior to detailed analysis of the Roman pottery assemblage from Cadbury Congresbury. This analysis suggests that some complete Roman pottery vessels were in use concurrently with imported Mediterranean ceramics at present dated to the later fifth and sixth centuries. Such a possibility will have to be taken into account in future analyses of this and similar sites. A synthesis of these various aspects of the study is attempted by discussion of a number of models with diverse conceptual origins. Contrary to some earlier discussions it does not seem probable that a single hypothesis will account for all the evidence for hillfort/hill-top use. The meagre documentary evidence is seen as of little direct relevance, and future research should be directed towards obtaining the maximum returns from the archaeological data. The main text of this thesis is approximately 77,000 words. The appendices and bibliography are approximately 50,000 words.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available