Sacred mount or classic hillfort?
The striking profile of the Caburn dominates the lower Ouse valley in East Sussex. Since the beginnings of British landscape painting, the hill has been a recurring subject for artists - from Lambert's drawing of Caburn's 'rampart'enclosed hill in 1783, to the much-exhibited works of Peter Chasseaud and Carolyn Trant in the 1990s. The use and significance of the hill has changed over time, but its uniqu~ dome shape against the skyline must always have helped define peoples' sense of place. Palaeolithic hunters perhaps even Boxgrove Man - would have known where they were when the hill appeared out of the mist. For thousands of years, it was probably a sacred place. Later, it protected Lewes against the Vikings, then London against the Nazis. Now, commuters returning to rural East Sussex see it through the train window - and know they have beaten Railtrack once more to arrive safely home.
Peter Drewett and Sue Hamilton
Institute of Archaeology, UCl
31-34 Gordo n Square london, WC1 H OPY E-mail: email@example.com
Caburn is part of the history of archae ology. It is perhaps the most archaeologically dug site in Britain, with no less that 170 carefully placed trenches. Many great names of chalkland archaeology worked here. Major-General Augustus Lane Fox (later known as Pitt-Rivers) - the great pioneer of 'scientific excavation' described by Wheeler as 'the greatest of all archaeological excavators' - honed his craft on Caburn in 1877 and 1878. The Curwens, a local father and son team, both medical doctors and stalwarts of the Sussex Archaeological Society, started a four-month dig on Caburn in October 1925. A. E. Wilson, a schoolmaster who worked under Wheeler at Maiden Castle, excavated here in 1937-38. These interwar digs provided the material for Christopher Hawkes - famous for his 'invasion'theory of the British Iron Age - to produce a classic study The Caburn Pottery and its implications. Since then, further work has been done on the Caburn ceramics by Barry Cunliffe in the 1960s and Sue Hamilton in the 1980s.
The archaeological appeal of the site continues today. Caburn looks like a classic 'hillfort': it is surrounded by a bank of dumped spoil and a deep V-shaped ditch constructed right around the hilltop, while