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Historic England Research Records

Maiden Castle

Hob Uid: 451864
Location :
Dorset
West Dorset
Winterborne St. Martin
Grid Ref : SY6689108845
Summary : Maiden Castle, known primarily for its Iron Age hillfort, which is one of the largest and most complex in Europe; the site includes other multi-period remains on a chalk hilltop of the South Dorset Downs. The earliest features to be identified include a group of pits associated with Early Neolithic flint working, dating to around 4000 BC. A causewayed enclosure was built soon after, on the eastern plateau, which may have contained a long barrow and is associated with two infant burials. The Iron Age hillfort overlies this enclosure. In around 3500 BC, after the enclosure had fallen out of use, a bank barrow was constructed, part of which overlies the western end of the enclosure. In the Later Neolithic and Bronze Age periods two barrows and a small enclosure were constructed. There are believed to be three main phases for the Iron Age occupation of the site. Initially, in the Early Iron Age, it was a univallate hillfort, defined by a single rampart enclosing only the eastern end of the hill. During the second half of the 3rd century BC the ramparts were extended to the west and during the mid-2nd century BC the ramparts were rebuilt on a larger scale. The ramparts of the later multivallate hillfort consisted of three banks and two ditches around the hilltop, with an extra bank and ditch to the south, and two complex entrances. The interior of the fort was intensively occupied. Excavation revealed traces of circular and rectangular huts evident from post holes, trenches and floor remains, as well as over 50 human burials, many within a cemetery at the eastern end of the site. Occupation of the hilltop declined following the Roman Conquest, but a Romano-Celtic temple was built at the eastern end of the fort, during the 4th century AD. During the post-Roman period the site was used to graze stock; dewponds were constructed to provide water. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SY 66938848) Maiden Castle [NR]
Neolithic Earthwork [NR]
ROMAN TEMPLE [R] (remains of) [NAT] (1)

MAIDEN CASTLE - Excavated by Mortimer Wheeler between 1934 and 1937. (2)

Maiden Castle: 1:2500 survey revised using plans authority 2 and 2a and OS air photograph 78:080:049. See ground photographs. (3)

The statue found by Wheeler lying within the "shrine" and interpreted by him as being of Diana, is reinterpreted as being a statue of Dionysus-Bacchus. (4)

Additional aerial photographs. (5-6)

Excavation report on the 1985 and 1986 excavation programme including Carbon-14 date. (7-8)

Neolithic Cornish axes, and 15 Carbon-14 dates from Maiden Castle. (9)

SY 669 885. Maiden Castle. Listed in gazetteer as a hillfort with 4 phases of construction. Phase I: univallate covering 7.5ha. Phases II-IV: initially univallate but later multivallate covering 18.5ha. (10)

In 1984-1985, RCHME carried out a level 3 analytical earthwork survey of the monument complex at a scale of 1:1000. For further information see archive collection. (11)

Further excavations were carried out in 1985-6, under the direction of Niall Sharples. The results, including the plan produced by RCHME and a synopsis of the issues arising from the survey, are fully published. (12-13)

In October 1997, RCHME carried out a level 1 survey of the site as part of a national project to record Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic (Event Record 923509). The Neolithic causewayed enclosure underlye the earthworks of the Phase I Iron Age hillfort. (25)

The earliest features to be identified include a group of pits associated with Early Neolithic flint working. A causewayed enclosure was built soon after, on the eastern plateau. This enclosure may have contained a long barrow and is associated with two infant burials. Some time after this enclosure had fallen out of use, a bank barrow was constructed (SX 68 NE), part of which overlies the western end of the enclosure. Two barrows (SX 68 NE) and a small enclosure were constructed later, probably in the later Neolithic/Bronze Age. The Iron Age hillfort overlies the Neolithic enclosure. Finds include groups of sling stones, Iron Age pottery, brooches, beads, loom weights, querns and coins. Around 50 human burials have also been identified, many within a cemetery at the eastern end of the site. Occupation of the hilltop declined following the Roman Conquest, but a Romano-Celtic temple was built at the eastern end of the fort, during the 4th century AD. The building comprised a central block, or cella, surrounded by a corridor or verandah, within a walled precinct. The cella may have had mosaic floor, while the corridor had a tesserated pavement. During the post-Roman period the hilltop was used to graze stock and a number of dewponds were constructed to provide water. See child records for details. Scheduled. (23)

(SY 6693 8848)
In October 1998, RCHME carried out a Level 1 Field investigation and Level 3 archival research on the Neolithic causewayed enclosure which underlies the multivallate Iron Age hillfort known as Maiden Castle (SY 68 NE 7), as part of a national project recording Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic (Event Record 923509) (29)

Multi phase Iron Age hillfort. There are three main phases for the Iron Age occupation of the site, the Early Iron Age fort is defined by a single bank and ditch which enclosed the eastern summit of the hilltop. The fort was then extended to the west to enclose more than double the area of the original fort. Throughout this period, extra ramparts were added and the inner rampart was heightened. The entrances to the fort became increasingly more complex as more ramparts were added and gateways were redesigned. The interior of the fort appears to have been densly occupied at this time. In the later part of the iron age occupation became restricted to the eastern half of the fort and the defences became less important, though the inner bank and ditch wre refurbished at least once. Settlement and industrial activity extended into the area in front of the eastern gateway. There have been two major programmes of excavation of the site, the first in 1934-7 by Mortimer Wheeler and the secon in 1985-6 . (2A, 12)

Finds have included groups of sling stones, pottery, brooches, beads, loom weights, spindle whorls, querns and weaving combs. Approximately 50 burials have also been identified, many within a cemetery at the eastern end of the site. Scheduled. (23)

Maiden Castle, known primarily for its Iron Age hillfort, which is one of the largest and most complex in Europe, includes multi-period remains on a chalk hilltop of the South Dorset Downs. The site has been excavated by Edward Cunnington (1884), Sir Mortimer Wheeler (1934-1937) and N Sharples (1985-1986). The earliest features to be identified include a group of pits associated with Early Neolithic flint working, believed to date to around 4000 BC when the hilltop was first cleared of woodland. A causewayed enclosure was built soon after, on the eastern plateau, which may have contained a long barrow and is associated with two infant burials. The Iron Age hillfort overlies this enclosure. In around 3500 BC, after the enclosure had fallen out of use, a bank barrow was constructed, part of which overlies the western end of the enclosure. In the Later Neolithic and Bronze Age periods two barrows and a small enclosure were constructed. (23, 28, 29)

There are believed to be three main phases for the Iron Age occupation of the site. Initially, in the Early Iron Age, it was a univallate hillfort, defined by a single rampart comprising of a chalk bank, an outer ditch and intervening berm. These ramparts were broken by entrances to the east and west guarded by timber gates. During the second half of the 3rd century BC, the ramparts were extended to the west and during the mid-2nd century BC, the ramparts were rebuilt on a larger scale. The ramparts of the later multivallate hillfort consisted of three banks and two ditches around the hilltop, with an extra bank and ditch to the south, and two complex entrances. The interior of the fort was intensively occupied. Excavation revealed traces of circular and rectangular huts evident from post holes, trenches and floor remains as well as what has been interpreted as roads, gullies, storage pits and ovens. The largest circular building is believed to have developed into a shrine. Over 50 human burials have also been identified, many within a cemetery at the eastern end of the site. One of the most notable finds was a Roman ballista within the vertebrae of an adult man. (2A, 12, 23)

Occupation of the hilltop declined following the Roman Conquest, and the Roman town of Durnovaria (now Dorchester) was established to the north east at Dorchester. A Romano-Celtic temple was built at the eastern end of the fort, during the 4th century AD. The building comprised a central block, or cella, surrounded by a corridor or verandah, within a walled precinct. The cella may have had a black and white mosaic floor, while the corridor had a red tesserated pavement. The structure was built of flint and limestone and roofed with stone tiles, later replaced by clay. During the post-Roman period the hilltop was used to graze stock and a number of dewponds were constructed to provide water. (2A , 12, 23)

Source 30 inlcudes a brief accessible overview of the development of Maiden Castle for visitors. (30)

Additional source on Maiden Castle in a work of synthesis about the sites of prehistoric Dorset. (31)


Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" 1963
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume two : south-east [in three parts]
Source details :
Page(s) : 493-501
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : part 3
Source Number : 9
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : Sharples, N.
Page(s) : 81, 102, 124, 125
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 109, 1987
Source Number : 10
Source : British Hillforts: an index
Source details :
Page(s) : 225
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 62
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : RCHME Field Investigation 1984-1985. MC Corney, DS McOmish, C Dunn, M Bowden.
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Maiden Castle : excavations and field survey 1985-6
Source details :
Page(s) : 43-101
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.19
Source Number : 13
Source : English Heritage book of Maiden Castle
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Excursion to Maiden Castle
Page(s) : 351-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 22, 1865
Source Number : 15
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Warne, C. Ancient Dorset.
Page(s) : 79
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 16
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : Cuming, H Syer. Report on Ancient Remains Found at Maiden Castle.
Page(s) : 39-45
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 28, 1872
Source Number : 17
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : Proceedings of the Congress
Page(s) : 99-102
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 28, 1872
Source Number : 18
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : Clift, JGN. Maiden Castle, Dorchester.
Page(s) : 157-168
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1907
Source Number : 2a
Source : Maiden Castle, Dorset
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.12
Source Number : 19
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : Forster, RH. Notes on Maiden Castle.
Page(s) : 169-171
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1907
Source Number : 20
Source : Journal of the British Archaeological Association
Source details : Clift, JGN. Neolithic Implements from Dorset.
Page(s) : 172-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1907
Source Number : 21
Source : Excavations along the route of the Dorchester by-pass, Dorset, 1986-8
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.11
Source Number : 22
Source : The South Dorset Ridgeway : survey and excavations 1977-84
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : no.8
Source Number : 23
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 24-Sep-97
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 24
Source : The English Heritage visitors' handbook 1998-99
Source details :
Page(s) : 80
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 25
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : RCHME: Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 26
Source : A gazetteer of early Anglo-Saxon burial sites
Source details :
Page(s) : 81
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 27
Source : The use of grave-goods in conversion-period England, c.600-c.850
Source details :
Page(s) : 150-1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 261
Source Number : 28
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : RCHME: Industry and enclosure in the Neolithic
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2b
Source : Windmill Hill and Avebury : excavations by Alexander Keiller, 1925-1939
Source details :
Page(s) : 17
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 29
Source : English Heritage Members' and Visitors' handbook 2008/9
Source details :
Page(s) : 104-105
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 30
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in Devon, Dorset and Somerset
Source details :
Page(s) : 52-55
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 31
Source : Prehistoric Dorset
Source details :
Page(s) : 11, 41, 109, 114-114, 116, 119-122,164-5
Figs. :
Plates : 14
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 JGB 20-JUN-80
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : Henig, M
Page(s) : 160-2
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 105, 1983
Source Number : 5
Source : Aerial archaeology : the journal for air photography and archaeology
Source details : Allen, GWG
Page(s) : 11-Dec
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1984
Source Number : 6
Source : Roman Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 06-Aug
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : Sharples, N. Maiden Castle project 1985: an interim report.
Page(s) : 111-119
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 107, 1985
Source Number : 8
Source : Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details : Sharples, N. Maiden Castle project 1986: an interim report.
Page(s) : 53-62
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 108, 1986

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Early Neolithic
Display Date : third phase of Neolithic features
Monument End Date : -3500
Monument Start Date : -3500
Monument Type : Bank Barrow
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Neolithic
Display Date : first Neolithic features
Monument End Date : -4000
Monument Start Date : -4000
Monument Type : Extractive Pit
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : C5 and C6 remains
Monument End Date : 599
Monument Start Date : 410
Monument Type : Shrine, Inhumation
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Post Roman feature
Monument End Date :
Monument Start Date : 410
Monument Type : Dewpond
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : C7 scramasax
Monument End Date : 699
Monument Start Date : 600
Monument Type : Inhumation
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Neolithic
Display Date : 2nd phase of Neolithic features
Monument End Date : -3500
Monument Start Date : -4000
Monument Type : Causewayed Enclosure, Burial, Long Barrow
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Late Neolithic
Display Date : Late Neolithic and bronze age features
Monument End Date : -2200
Monument Start Date : -2900
Monument Type : Enclosure, Barrow
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Bronze Age
Display Date : Bronze Age feature
Monument End Date : -700
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Enclosure, Barrow
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Conjectural Evidence, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Early Bronze Age
Display Date : Early Bronze Age finds
Monument End Date : -1600
Monument Start Date : -2600
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Early Iron Age
Display Date : Early Iron Age features
Monument End Date : -300
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Univallate Hillfort, Inhumation, Pit, Post Hole, Hearth
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Middle Iron Age
Display Date : Middle Iron Age features
Monument End Date : -100
Monument Start Date : -300
Monument Type : Multivallate Hillfort, Post Hole, Midden, Round House (Domestic), Pit, Hearth
Evidence : Earthwork, Sub Surface Deposit, Find
Monument Period Name : Late Iron Age
Display Date : Late Iron Age Features
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -100
Monument Type : Round House (Domestic), Hearth, Inhumation Cemetery, Pit, Multivallate Hillfort
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Find, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman remains
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Temple, Mosaic, Tessellated Floor, Precinct
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Period : Early Bronze Age
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : VESSEL, BARBED AND TANGED ARROWHEAD
Object Material : Pottery, Flint
Period : Early Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Univallate Hillfort, Inhumation, Pit, Post Hole, Hearth
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Middle Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Multivallate Hillfort, Post Hole, Midden, Round House (Domestic), Pit, Hearth
Object Type : VESSEL, COIN, LOOMWEIGHT
Object Material : Pottery
Period : Late Iron Age
Component Monument Type : Round House (Domestic), Hearth, Inhumation Cemetery, Pit, Multivallate Hillfort
Object Type : VESSEL, COIN, SLING SHOT, BEAD, BROOCH, QUERN, BRIDLE BIT, SPINDLE WHORL, WEAVING COMB
Object Material : Pottery, Bone
Period : Early Medieval
Component Monument Type : Inhumation
Object Type : SWORD
Object Material :

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DO 1A
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22959
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 142A-142C
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Dorset)
External Cross Reference Number : 142A/142B/*
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 283
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 15852/03
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SY 68 NE 7
External Cross Reference Notes :

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Related Activities :
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1865-01-01
End Date : 1865-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1871-01-01
End Date : 1871-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1882-01-01
End Date : 1882-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1934-01-01
End Date : 1938-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE BANK BARROW
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1951-01-01
End Date : 1951-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 68 NE 7
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1980-06-20
End Date : 1980-06-20
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SY 68 NE 7
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1985-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1985-01-01
End Date : 1985-12-31
Associated Activities : MARTINSTOWN TO MAIDEN CASTLE CYCLEWAY
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1999-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE: BADGER SETTS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT MAIDEN CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2014-01-01
End Date : 2014-12-31
Associated Activities : MAIDEN CASTLE (WEST GATE)
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2017-01-01
End Date : 2017-12-31