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Birdlip Camp

Hob Uid: 117437
Location :
Gloucestershire
Cotswold, Tewkesbury
Cowley, Badgeworth
Grid Ref : SO9238615022
Summary : A Neolithic promontory enclosure comprising a projecting spur of Birdlip Hill with two curving concentric earthworks cutting across the axis of the promontory. The site was surveyed by RCHME in 1996 as part of the Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic Project. Quarrying has lowered the tip of the promontory and eroded the north and south sides; the east area is intact. The promontory is cut off by two earthworks across the spur, about 90 metres apart, with vestigial banks which appear virtually continuous. The outer would originally have enclosed an area of more than a hectare. The inner earthwork consists of a bank; the outer, 55 metres to the south east, is a bank with slight external ditch. The area narrows in width from 95 metres at the south eastern end to 15 metres on the northwest. Excavations were undertaken by T Darvill (who referred to the site as Peak Camp) in 1980-1, comprising a trench across the outer earthwork and a small trench towards the western end of the promontory. The outer earthwork comprised a single rock-cut ditch with an internal bank of limestone rubble. The ditch featured at least one causeway, and had seen at least four phases of recutting. Finds included flints, animal bones, and pottery. The second trench revealed a ditch or gulley, which contained further Neolithic pottery, flints and a quantity of bone. The lithic material included leaf-shaped arrowheads and a flake from a polished axe. Research into the dating of Early Neolithic enclosures indicates a construction date for the outer circuit of probably of 3655-3540 cal BC. The enclosure at Peak Camp may have been used into the 33rd century cal BC, although this late date is dependent on a single measurement. The research also highlighted the relationship with the Crickley Hill enclosure nearby, suggesting they were probably built within a generation of each other and were in concurrent use, at least until the destruction of Crickley in the mid-35th century cal BC.
More information : (SO 9243 1502) Birdlip Camp (NR)
(Remains of) (1)

The promontory fort occupying the projecting spur of Birdlip Hill consists of a single bank and ditch running in a curved line with each end resting on the escarpment. The defended area has been much reduced by quarrying, and the defences nearly obliterated by ploughing. (2,3)

Birdlip Camp, an alleged hillfort of origin indeterminate without excavating, consists of a slight ridge of variable profile across a spur. It is up to 50 ft wide and about 18 inches high; there is no entrance. (Visited 3.10.66). (4)

This continuous curvilinear bank is 0.7 metres high on the east side, up to 0.4 metres high on the west, and approximately 12.0 metres across; there is no trace of a ditch.

Visual evidence suggests a minor and unclassifiable bank - dubious promontory fort.

Published survey (25") revised. (5)

SO 9243 1502 Examination of Peak Camp prior to excavation in 1980-1 identified a second, inner, earthwork isolating the promontory. The excavation sectioned the site's outer (eastern) earthwork and trenched a small area at the promontory's western tip. The outer bank had survived to a height of only 0.3m and no intact land surface remained beneath it. It's associated ditch proved to have been recut 4 times, each time it was displaced to the E, the new bank partly covering the previous ditch. All the ditch's phases contained sealed pottery (including plain Abingdon style), flintwork and bone. A mid 3rd Millenium BC date was suggested using ceramic analogies. At the west end of the hill a shallow U-shaped gully, running E-W, was encountered. In the bottom lay a hearth which was overlain and sealed by a series of humic fills containing assemblages of Abingdon-style pottery, flints and bones. Part of the gully was also overlain by a 0.25m thick platform, built of broken limestone, and an associated layer of burnt stones which contained flintwork, bone and pottery. the site as a whole was reinterpreted as a Neolithic causewayed enclosure. (6,7)

Birdlip Camp was re-surveyed and re-investigated in March 1996 during the RCHME Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic period. Situated in woodland, the site comprises two curving, concentric banks now greatly denuded. The outer bank retains traces of an external ditch with one possible, but highly speculative, causeway with a corresponding dip in the bank. The area presently enclosed is 1 ha (2.54 acres) but the site has been partially destroyed by limestone quarrying, especially on the south-western side where there is a high quarry face. There were no internal features visible on the surface.

Although Tim Darvill's excavations in 1980 and 1981 demonstrated the Neolithic date of Birdlip Camp by C14, pottery and flintwork, the small scale of the excavations make detailed discussion about the nature of the site difficult. The evidence for causeways is very slight, both on the surface and from the excavations. However, the four successive phases in the outer ditch prompts comparison with the neolithic enclosures on nearby Crickley Hill (see SO 91 NW 43) and demonstrates the potential complexity of Birdlip Camp.

A full report and survey plan at 1:1000 scale can be found in the RCHME archive (8-10).

Additional references. (11-14)

Research into the dating of Early Neolithic enclosures indicates a construction date for the outer circuit of probably of 3655-3540 cal BC. The enclosure at Peak Camp may have been used into the 33rd century cal BC, although this late date is dependent on a single measurement. The research also highlighted the relationship with the Crickly Hill enclosure nearby, suggesting they were probably built within a generation of each other and were in concurrent use, at least until the destruction of Crickley in the mid-35th century cal BC. (15)

The promontory fort (described above) was viewed on aerial photographs as part of the Severn Vale NMP project but the remains of the fort were not visible due to dense tree cover, however the two curving concentric ramparts were just visible on lidar image as slight earthworks. Due to the slight nature they were mapped as a single line along the top of the banks. (16-17)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1954
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Source Number : 2
Source : Cotteswold Naturalists Field Club proceedings
Source details : Playne, GF. On the Ancient Camps of Gloucestershire
Page(s) : 204, 210
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 6, 1871-6
Source Number : 11
Source : Archaeology in Gloucestershire from the earliest hunters to the industrial age : essays dedicated to Helen O'Neil and the late Elsie Clifford
Source details : Darvill, T. Neolithic Gloucestershire.
Page(s) : 80-112
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Source Number : 12
Source : Archaeological results from accelerator dating
Source details : Darvill, T. Prospects for dating Neolithic Sites and Monuments in the Cotswolds and adjacent areas
Page(s) : 119-124
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Vol(s) : 11
Source Number : 13
Source : Prehistoric Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 44, 51
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Source Number : 14
Source : Prehistoric Gloucestershire
Source details :
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Source Number : 15
Source : Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland
Source details : Chapter 9.2, Peak Camp, see also section 9.3
Page(s) : 454-457
Figs. : 9.16-9.17
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 16
Source : Light detection and ranging (lidar) airborne survey
Source details : LIDAR Environment Agency SO 9214 D0048824 23-DEC-2005
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Source Number : 17
Source : RCHME/EH/HE Aerial Photographers comment
Source details : Amanda Dickson 22/07/2014 English Heritage: Gloucestershire County Council: Severn Vale NMP
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Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeological handbook of the county of Gloucester, being an explanatory description of the archaeological map of Gloucestershire
Source details : No 11
Page(s) : 5
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : RCHM Ms notes 19.5.71
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Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 MJF 24-MAY-72
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Source Number : 6
Source : Glevensis : Gloucestershire and District Archaeological Research Group review
Source details : Darvill, T. Excavations at the Peak Camp, Cowley: an interim note
Page(s) : 52-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 15, 1981
Source Number : 7
Source : Glevensis : Gloucestershire and District Archaeological Research Group review
Source details : Darvill, T. Excavations at the Peak Camp, Cowley, Gloucestershire: Second Interim Report
Page(s) : 20-May
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Vol(s) : 16, 1982
Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : RCHME: Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic Period: Birdlip Camp Survey, 21st March 1996
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Source Number : 9
Source : Birdlip Camp/ink survey
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Source Number : 10
Source : Birdlip Camp
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Neolithic
Display Date : Used 3655-3200 cal BC
Monument End Date : -3200
Monument Start Date : -3655
Monument Type : Causewayed Enclosure
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Quarrying underway by 1828
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date : 1828
Monument Type : Limestone Quarry
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Period : Neolithic
Component Monument Type : Causewayed Enclosure
Object Type : VESSEL, LEAF ARROWHEAD, ANIMAL REMAINS, POLISHED AXEHEAD
Object Material : Flint, Stone, Pottery, Bone

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : AF1062711
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Gloucestershire)
External Cross Reference Number : 4754
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Gloucestershire)
External Cross Reference Number : 46541
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Gloucestershire)
External Cross Reference Number : 46540
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SO 91 NW 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SO 91 NW 10
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1972-05-24
End Date : 1972-05-24
Associated Activities : Primary, THE PEAK CAMP, COWLEY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1980-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME:INDUSTRY AND ENCLOSURE IN THE NEOLITHIC PERIOD: BIRDLIP CAMP (PEAK CAMP) SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1996-03-19
End Date : 1996-03-21
Associated Activities : Primary, SEVERN VALE NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2013-08-12
End Date : 2016-01-31