With the recognition of Waulud's Bank we can now distinguish five, or accepting the Cranbourne Chase complex, six, such ceremonial centres in the south of England. But just what were such sites? Traditionally causeway camps have long been disputed between the ritualists, who point out that the surrounding ditches could scarcely have formed any rational purpose, and the functionalists, who point to the vast amount of domestic debris found in the ditches. Both must to some extent be right, and recently, following Isobel Smith's Windmill Hill report, a sort of consensus has been growing up that they may have been the sites of annual fairs, where itinerant tribal groups from a large area met together to exchange goods and news, and when it was all over the remains of their occupation were ritually dumped in the ditches.
To this picture two further aspects can perhaps be added. Colin Renfrew brings in the concept of political power; many of these sites are fantastically rich—at Durrington Walls for instance more Neolithic pottery was said to have been discovered than in all previous excavations put together, while the large number of stone axes from Windmill Hill have long skewed all studies of these artifacts. Thus it is easy to see these sites as being 'palaces' where there was rather more rubbish to discard than in ordinary domestic sites. Professor Hawkes also suggests that we should not forget the element of the 'Magic Circle' within which "Thou shalt do no wrong", where ustice could be dispensed and disputes settled under a tribal truce.
By amalgamating all these elements together we can perhaps begin to build up a picture of tribal centres maintained in shifting guises over many centuries. If then we accept this interpretation, can we not begin to parcel out southern Britain among these tribal groups, and to build up a picture of the political geography, and perhaps even history, of Neolithic Britain?
T HE hillfort at Danebury in Hampshire has long been re cognised as being a crucial one. Although only medium in size it is extremely well preserved and casual finds have suggested that it was densely occupied for a long period. In the last three years Professor Barry Cunliffe has been excavating there, so that now Danebury stands in the forefront of the study of Iron Age hillforts. In the first season (reported in CA. 18) he cut through the ramparts and ditch of the de fences, revealing three main phases of construction. In the two seasons since he investigated the main entrance to the east, and then in 1971 he excavated a large area of the interior. What did he discover?
Danebury has two main entrances, one to the east and the other to the west. The major one is evidently that to the east so it was to this that he devoted the 1970 season. The entrance proved to be even more complex than it appeared on the surface, for its history was a long one, built and altered over many centuries. This had two main consequences. In the first place the long passage of time meant that the actual gateposts were continually being replaced, so that over 80 postholes were discovered and had to be assigned to their various phases. And secondly, the continuous use of the entrance meant that the heavy traffic wore the road down into a holloway, so that some of the early postholes nearly vanished and only the very bottoms survived.
The first defence of the hill top is to be assigned probably to the 5th century B.C. The section through the ramparts in 1969 had revealed the first defences to be a box rampart, with a solid core of earth faced front and rear with a wooden box, a type made famous by the excavation of the Sussex hillfort of Hollingbury in the 1930's. The entrance of this phase was a simple one, a single gate hung from one post and fastened to the other, offering a single carriageway into the camp. A second subsidiary gate was placed outside the ditch and appears to be linked to the main inner gate by a palisade running along the ditch terminals. Probably this was not defensive but agricultural in purpose, to prevent animals from jostling each other down into the deep ditch.
The New Order
Around 400 B.C. the interior of the camp was completely reorganised to a new layout that continued unchanged for virtually 300 years. For much of this period the old rampart continued in use, but the domestic reorganisation appears to be marked by the rebuilding of the gateway in a new style, rather grander and more impressive than before. This new style also lasted for 300 years until the elaborate remodelling of the entrance around 100 B.C. During this period it underwent one major and numerous minor rebuildings.
Throughout, however, the basic principle remained unchanged. The gateway was a double one with two gates hanging one from either side and meeting at a third post in the middle. Behind the gate there was a
This article is based on information from Barry Cunliffe.