Hambledon Hill

Dorset


NGRef: ST845126
OSMap: LR194
Sitetype: Nce/IAf

Iron-Age Hillfort

Excluding Maiden Castle, this site is the most impressive hillfort in Dorset. Two ramparts and ditches, with an outer counterscarp bank, having inturned entrances to the N, SW and SE, enclosed an area of 12.5ha. There are 3 stages of construction: starting at the N end, enclosing 4.9ha, and dating from c300BC; the second stage took in the centre portion of the hill with a set of cross-banks; the final phase consisting of a further set of cross-banks was completed sometime between 50BC and the invasion of 43AD. Some several hundred depressions within the interior, if interpreted as dwelling-huts decry a dense population. Also inside the fort, at the highest point, is a Neolithic long barrow, some 70m in length. SE of the fort is a massive Neolithic complex recently excavated, and radio-carbon dated to 2900 - 2600BC. The causewayed camp of 8ha was surrounded by a single causewayed ditch and an inner bank. The ditch contained large amounts of human bones, including crouched infant burials and skulls placed at intervals. Estimates for the amount of labour involved in the construction vary between 40 - 45,000 man hours. The structure seemed to have been of great ritual importance. Another enclosure of 1ha lies 80m SE of the camp, having an even more massiuve ditch that contained a lot of charcoal, implying a timber superstructure destroyed by fire. Again, human skulls have been placed round its circuit, but here the heads were severed before placement. Traces of several timber structures were found in the interior, including a timber-lined entrance passage. The structure appears to have been periodically restrengthened, but was finally sacked - an intact skeleton was found at the entrance with an arrow embedded in his chest. The camp may have been an open-air cemetary where corpses were exposed, while the smaller structure may have been occupied by cattle-herding farmers. There is a second long barrow near the camp, though nothing is known of the contents of either of them. Hod Hill lies nearby to the NW.