Hillforts in the Chilterns
Since prehistory, humans have been leaving their mark on the landscape, whether to claim dominance or just for art’s sake.
In the Chilterns, some of the most prominent leftovers from our prehistory are iron-age earthworks. Created for a variety of reasons – from keeping livestock, to showing off status – these mounds, ditches and remnants are often called ‘hillforts’, conjuring up pictures of large fortifications loftily surveying the landscape, ready to defend those inside. But this title is a little misleading. It actually covers a whole range of prehistoric enclosures, many of which aren’t on top of hills and show no evidence of attack. It just so happened that many early archaeologists were military men, so automatically jumped to the conclusion that the works they uncovered were fortifications. This is clear in some of their names: for instance, Caesars Camp was thought to have been constructed by Caesar during his military campaign. Yet, these earthworks date back much further than the Romans, to the late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age: 1100 BC to 300 BC.
What is a hillfort?
Where are hillforts found?
Are our hillforts threatened?
Keeping hillforts and ancient sites safe
Beacons of the Past
The Beacons of the Past project has been running since 2018, bringing Chilterns’ hillforts into the spotlight. Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project commissioned the largest high resolution LiDAR survey (laser scanning) ever flown for archaeology in the UK – one new hillfort was discovered, and lots of new archaeology was found, including Iron Age and Roman enclosures, World War I training trenches, and Medieval field systems.