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No. 39: May-Jun 1985

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The Hambleton Hill Neolithic Fortress

Hambleton Hill sits astride the Stour River in the chalklands of southwestern England. Almost 6,000 years ago, Neolithic people began erecting a great funeral center and fortress here. When the ramparts were complete, they were visible for miles. The southern and western sides were rimmed by a timber-framed rampart 2,500 meters long. The northern flank was protected by a 1,200meter multiditch outwork.

"A Neolithic herdsman who looked up to the hilltop in about 3,400 BC would have seen an impressive site. Crowning Hambleton Hill was a huge defensive enclosure with three concentric ramparts. The inner rampart, the most formidable of the three, was supported by 10,000 oak beams as thick as telephone poles. In the ditch around the ramparts human skulls placed at intervals added an eerie note to the appearance of the fortifications."

Such a construction feat must have taken considerable organization and community energy, much like the pyramids then under construction in Egypt. In the absence of stone quarries and with plenty of forests, Hambleton Hill's fortress was simple wood and dirt, but nonetheless very impressive. Even its great size, however, did not save it from conquest and burning.

(Mercer, R.J.; "A Neolithic Fortress and Funeral Center," Scientific America,, 252:94, March 1985.)

Reference. To learn more about ancient British hill forts, read our Handbook Ancient Man. Details here.

From Science Frontiers #39, MAY-JUN 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss