Hill fort

Hill fort

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A hill fort is a type of earthworks
Earthworks (engineering)
Earthworks are engineering works created through the moving or processing of quantities of soil or unformed rock.- Civil engineering use :Typical earthworks include roads, railway beds, causeways, dams, levees, canals, and berms...

 used as a fortified
Fortification
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...

 refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an and of the Bronze
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 and Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

s. Some were used in the post-Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 period. The fortification usually follows the contours of a hill
Hill
A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills often have a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit A hill is a landform that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills...

, consisting of one or more lines of earthworks
Earthworks (archaeology)
In archaeology, earthwork is a general term to describe artificial changes in land level. Earthworks are often known colloquially as 'lumps and bumps'. Earthworks can themselves be archaeological features or they can show features beneath the surface...

, with stockade
Stockade
A stockade is an enclosure of palisades and tall walls made of logs placed side by side vertically with the tops sharpened to provide security.-Stockade as a security fence:...

s or defensive walls, and external ditches.

The nomenclature used for the sites is given, together with their typology, chronology and locations.

Nomenclature


The terms "hill fort", "hill-fort" and "hillfort" are all used in the archaeological literature. They all refer to an elevated site with one or more ramparts made of earth, stone and/or wood, with an external ditch. Many small early hill forts were abandoned, with the larger ones being redeveloped at a later date. Some hill forts contain houses.

Similar but smaller and less defendable earthworks are found on the sides of hills. These are known as hill-slope enclosures and may have been animal pens.

Chronology


Some European hill forts originate in the late Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 period, but they are most common during later periods:
  • Urnfield culture and Atlantic Bronze Age
    Atlantic Bronze Age
    The Atlantic Bronze Age is a cultural complex of the Bronze Age period of approximately 1300–700 BC that includes different cultures in Portugal, Andalusia, Galicia, Armorica and the British Isles.-Trade:...

     (c. 1300 BC - 750 BC) Bronze Age
    Bronze Age
    The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

  • Hallstatt culture
    Hallstatt culture
    The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Central European culture from the 8th to 6th centuries BC , developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC and followed in much of Central Europe by the La Tène culture.By the 6th century BC, the Hallstatt culture extended for some...

     (c. 1200 BC - 500 BC) late Bronze Age to early Iron Age
    Iron Age
    The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

  • La Tene culture (c. 600 BC - 50 AD) late Iron Age


Hill forts were in use in many Celt
Celt
The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age and Roman-era Europe who spoke Celtic languages.The earliest archaeological culture commonly accepted as Celtic, or rather Proto-Celtic, was the central European Hallstatt culture , named for the rich grave finds in Hallstatt, Austria....

ic areas of central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 until the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 conquest. Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 described the large late Iron Age hill forts he encountered during his campaigns in Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 as oppida
Oppidum
Oppidum is a Latin word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome. The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum, "enclosed space," possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *pedóm-, "occupied space" or "footprint."Julius Caesar described the larger Celtic Iron Age...

. By this time the larger ones had become more like cities than fortresses and many were assimilated as Roman towns.

Some hill forts in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 were re-used in the post-Roman period and again in the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 period as mint locations.

Types of hill fort


Beyond the simple definition of hill fort, there is a wide variation in types and periods from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages.
Here are some considerations of general appearance and topology, which can be assessed without archaeological excavation:
  • Location
    • Hilltop Contour: the classic hill fort; an inland location with a hilltop defensive position surrounded by artificial ramparts or steep natural slopes. Examples: Brent Knoll
      Brent Knoll Camp
      Brent Knoll Camp is an Iron Age Hill fort at Brent Knoll, from Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England. It has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument , and is now in the care of the National Trust....

      , Mount Ipf
      Mount Ipf
      The Ipf is a treeless mountain , near Bopfingen, Ostalbkreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany with a prehistoric hill fort on its top.The fort is situated on an isolated hill, with a flattened summit surrounded by a stone wall, ditch and large counterscarp . The overall diameter is about 180 metres...

      .
    • Inland Promontory: an inland defensive position on a ridge or spur with steep slopes on 2 or 3 sides, and artificial ramparts on the level approaches. Example: Lambert's Castle
      Lambert's Castle
      Lambert's Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the county of Dorset in southwest England. Since 1981 it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest on account of its geology, archaeology and ecology....

      .
    • Interfluvial: a promontory above the confluence of two rivers, or in the bend of a meander
      Meander
      A meander in general is a bend in a sinuous watercourse. A meander is formed when the moving water in a stream erodes the outer banks and widens its valley. A stream of any volume may assume a meandering course, alternately eroding sediments from the outside of a bend and depositing them on the...

      . Example: Kelheim
      Alcimoennis
      Alcimoennis was a Celtic Oppidum, or hill fort, located on the Michelsberg hill, dominating the peninsula between the Danube and Altmühl rivers in northern Bavaria, Germany, above the modern city of Kelheim....

      .
    • Lowland: an inland location without special defensive advantages (except perhaps marshes), but surrounded by artificial ramparts; typical of later settled oppida. Examples: Maiden Castle
      Maiden Castle, Dorset
      Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age...

      , Stonea Camp
      Stonea Camp
      Stonea Camp is an Iron Age hill fort located near March in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Situated on a gravel bank just above sea-level, it is the lowest hill fort in Britain. Around 500 BC, when fortification is thought to have begun at this site, this "hill" would have provided a significant area of...

      .
    • Sea Cliff: a semi-circular crescent of ramparts backing on to a straight sea cliff; common on rocky Atlantic coasts, such as Ireland. Examples: Daw's Castle
      Daw's Castle
      Daw's Castle is a sea cliff hill fort just west of Watchet, a harbour town in Somerset, England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.The name comes from Thomas Dawe, who owned castell field in 1537....

      , Dinas Dinlle
      Dinas Dinlle
      Dinas Dinlle is a small settlement in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, with a large sand and pebble beach with vast areas of sand from mid-tide level. The foreshore consists of natural pebble banks. The popular beach offers views towards the Llŷn Peninsula and towards Ynys Llanddwyn on Anglesey...

      , Dún Aengus
      Dún Aengus
      Dún Aonghasa is the most famous of several prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands, of County Galway, Ireland. It is located on Inishmore at the edge of an approximately 100 metre high cliff....

      .
    • Sea Promontory: a linear earthwork across a narrow neck of land leading to a peninsula with steep cliffs to the sea on three sides; common on indented Atlantic coasts, such as Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany and west Wales. Examples: The Rumps
      The Rumps
      The Rumps is a twin-headland promontory at the north-east corner of Pentire Head in north Cornwall, United Kingdom.The promontory is formed from hard basaltic rock and projects north into the Atlantic Ocean. Its headlands lie east-to-west...

      , Huelgoat
      Huelgoat
      Huelgoat is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in northwestern France.-Population:Inhabitants of Huelgoat are called in French Huelgoatains.-Geography:...

      .
    • Sloping Enclosure: smaller earthwork on gently sloping hillsides; not significant defensive position. Examples: Goosehill Camp
      Goosehill Camp
      Goosehill Camp is a prehistoric earthwork that dates back to the Iron Age. It consists of two concentric banks and ditches. The inner enclosure has one entrance and surround two levelled hut sites. Goosehill Camp is within the Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve, on the South...

      , Plainsfield Camp
      Plainsfield Camp
      Plainsfield Camp is a possible Iron Age earthwork on the Quantock Hills near Aisholt in Somerset, England.The so-called hill fort has several features that make it more likely to be an animal enclosure, than a defended settlement:...

      , Trendle Ring
      Trendle Ring
      Trendle Ring is an Iron Age earthwork on the Quantock Hills near Bicknoller in Somerset, England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument .The word trendle means circle, so it is a tautological place name....

      .
  • Area
    • > 20 ha
      Hectare
      The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

      : very large enclosures, too diffuse to defend, probably used for domesticated animals. Examples: Miholjanec.
    • 1 - 20 ha
      Hectare
      The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

      : defended areas large enough to support permanent tribal settlement.
    • < 1 ha
      Hectare
      The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

      : small enclosures, more likely to be individual farmsteads or animal pens.
  • Ramparts, walls and ditches
    • Univallate: a single circuit of ramparts for enclosure and defence. Example: Solsbury Hill
      Solsbury Hill
      Little Solsbury Hill is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, England. The hill rises to above the River Avon which is just over to the south. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

      .
    • Multivallate: more than one layer of defensive earthworks, outer works might not be complete circuits, but defend the weakest approaches; typically the inner circuit is original, with outer circuits added later. Example: Cadbury Castle
      Cadbury Castle, Somerset
      Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and associated with King Arthur.-Background:...

      .
  • Entrances
    • Simple opening: might indicate an enclosure, rather than a defended position; sometimes the main ramparts may turn inward or outward, and be widened and heightened to control the entrance. Example: Dowsborough
      Dowsborough
      Dowsborough Camp is an Iron Age hill fort on the Quantock Hills near Nether Stowey in Somerset, England. It has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument .-Background:...

      .
    • Linear holloway: straight parallel pair of ramparts dominating the entrance; projecting either inward, outward, or occasionally overlapped along the main rampart. Example: Norton Camp
      Norton Camp
      Norton Camp is a Bronze Age hill fort at Norton Fitzwarren near Taunton in Somerset, England.-Background:Hill forts developed in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, roughly the start of the first millennium BC. The reason for their emergence in Britain, and their purpose, has been a subject of...

      .
    • Complex: multiple overlapping outer works; staggered or interleaved multivallate ramparts; zig-zag entrance way, sling platforms and well planned lines of fire. Examples: Maiden Castle
      Maiden Castle, Dorset
      Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age...

      .


Some forts were also settlements, while others were only occupied seasonally, or in times of strife.
Archaeological excavation reveals more about the dates of occupation and modes of use. Typical features for excavation include:
  • Ramparts and ditches
    • Original depths and profiles of ditches.
    • Rampart construction: murus gallicus
      Murus Gallicus
      Murus Gallicus or Gallic Wall is a method of construction of defensive walls used to protect Iron Age hillforts and oppida of the La Tene period in Western Europe.The distinctive features are:* earth or rubble fill...

      , pfostenschlitzmauer
      Pfostenschlitzmauer
      Pfostenschlitzmauer is a method of constructing defensive walls protecting Iron Age hillforts and oppida in Central Europe, including Bavaria and the Czech Republic. It is characterized by vertical wooden posts set into the front stone facing. The rampart is constructed from a timber lattice...

      .
    • Guardhouses and defended entrances.
  • Settlement and occupation
    • Raised platforms, roundhouses
      Roundhouse (dwelling)
      The roundhouse is a type of house with a circular plan, originally built in western Europe before the Roman occupation using walls made either of stone or of wooden posts joined by wattle-and-daub panels and a conical thatched roof. Roundhouses ranged in size from less than 5m in diameter to over 15m...

      , longhouses.
    • Post holes for rectangular granary
      Granary
      A granary is a storehouse for threshed grain or animal feed. In ancient or primitive granaries, pottery is the most common use of storage in these buildings. Granaries are often built above the ground to keep the stored food away from mice and other animals.-Early origins:From ancient times grain...

       huts.
    • Pits for food storage, souterrain
      Souterrain
      Souterrain is a name given by archaeologists to a type of underground structure associated mainly with the Atlantic Iron Age. These structures appear to have been brought northwards from Gaul during the late Iron Age. Regional names include earth houses, fogous and Pictish houses...

      s, fogou
      Fogou
      A fogou or fougou is an underground, dry-stone structure found on Iron Age or Romano-British defended settlement sites in Cornwall. Fogous have similarities with souterrains or earth-houses of northern Europe and particularly Scotland including the Orkney Islands...

      s.
    • Pottery
      Pottery
      Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

    • Coins, jewellery and hoards.
  • Temples and peacetime burials
    • Platforms and temple foundations.
    • Graves and offerings
  • Warfare
    • Weapons: sling-shot, shields, armour, swords, axes, spears, arrows.
    • Sieges and conquest: ballista
      Ballista
      The ballista , plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target....

       bolts, ash layers, vitrified stones, burnt post holes.
    • Wartime burials: typically outside the ramparts:
      • Contemporary individual burials by local inhabitants.
      • Massed grave pits dug by a conquering army.


Hill forts were frequently occupied by conquering armies, but on other occasions the forts were destroyed, the local people forcibly evicted, and the forts left derelict. For example, Solsbury Hill
Solsbury Hill
Little Solsbury Hill is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, England. The hill rises to above the River Avon which is just over to the south. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty...

 was sacked and deserted during the Belgic invasions of southern Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 in the 1st century BC. Abandoned forts were sometimes reoccupied and refortified under renewed threat of foreign invasion, such as the Dukes' Wars in Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, and the successive invasions of Britain by Romans
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

, Saxons and Vikings.

Britain



Hill forts in Britain are known from the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

, but the great period of hill fort construction was during the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

, between 200 BC and the Roman conquest of Britain
Roman conquest of Britain
The Roman conquest of Britain was a gradual process, beginning effectively in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, whose general Aulus Plautius served as first governor of Britannia. Great Britain had already frequently been the target of invasions, planned and actual, by forces of the Roman Republic and...

 in 43 AD. The Romans occupied some forts, such as the military garrison at Hod Hill
Hod Hill
Hod Hill is a large hill fort in the Blackmore Vale, north-west of Blandford Forum, Dorset, England. The fort sits on a chalk hill that is detached from the Dorset Downs and Cranborne Chase. The hill fort at Hambledon Hill is just to the north.The fort is roughly rectangular , with an enclosed...

, and the temple at Brean Down
Brean Down
Brean Down is a promontory off the coast of Somerset standing high and extending into the Bristol Channel at the eastern end of Bridgwater Bay between Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea....

, but others were destroyed and abandoned. Partially articulated remains of between 28 and 40 men, women and children at Cadbury Castle
Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and associated with King Arthur.-Background:...

 were thought by the excavator to implicate the Cadbury population in a revolt in the 70s AD (roughly contemporary with that of Boudicca in the East of England), although this has been questioned by subsequent researchers. However, the presence of barracks on the hilltop in the decades following the conquest suggest an ongoing struggle to suppress local dissent.

Many of the place names of these sites bear the suffix "-bury", meaning fort. Some are called Cytiau (cytiau'r Gwyddelod, the huts of the Irish). Maiden Castle
Maiden Castle, Dorset
Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age...

 in Dorset is the largest hill fort in England. Where Roman influence was less strong, such as uninvaded Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and unsubdued northern Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, hill forts were still built and used for several more centuries.

There are over 2000 Iron Age hillforts known in Britain of which nearly 600 are in Wales. Danebury
Danebury
Danebury is an Iron Age hill fort in Hampshire in England, about north-west of Winchester . The site, covering , was excavated by Barry Cunliffe in the 1970s...

 in Hampshire
Hampshire
Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England in the United Kingdom. The county town of Hampshire is Winchester, a historic cathedral city that was once the capital of England. Hampshire is notable for housing the original birthplaces of the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force...

, is the most thoroughly investigated Iron Age hillfort in Britain, as well as the most extensively published.

Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and associated with King Arthur.-Background:...

 is the largest amongst forts reoccupied following the end of Roman rule
Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the part of the island of Great Britain controlled by the Roman Empire from AD 43 until ca. AD 410.The Romans referred to the imperial province as Britannia, which eventually comprised all of the island of Great Britain south of the fluid frontier with Caledonia...

, to defend against pirate raids, and the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 invasions. The cemetery outside Poundbury Hill
Poundbury Hill
Poundbury Hill hill fort is the site of a Middle Bronze Age enclosure. It is roughly rectangular and it is likely that it was designed to command views over the River Frome and the Frome valley to the north. The main entrance to the fort is on the eastern end. It overlooks the county town of...

 contains east-facing Christian burials of the 4th century. The Wansdyke
Wansdyke (earthwork)
Wansdyke is a series of early medieval defensive linear earthworks in the West Country of England, consisting of a ditch and a running embankment from the ditch spoil, with the ditching facing north. It runs at least from Maes Knoll in historic Somerset, a hillfort at the east end of Dundry Hill...

 was a new linear earthwork connected to the existing hill fort at Maes Knoll
Maes Knoll
Maes Knoll is an Iron Age hillfort in Somerset, England, located at the eastern end of the Dundry Down ridge, south of the city of Bristol and north of the village of Norton Malreward near the eastern side of Dundry Hill...

, which defined the Celtic-Saxon border in south-west England during the period 577-652 AD.

Some hill forts were re-occupied by the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 during the period of Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 raids. King Alfred established a network of coastal hill forts and lookout posts in Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, linked by a Herepath
Herepath
A Herepath or Herewag is a military road in England, typically dating from the ninth century CE.This was a time of war between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England and Viking invaders from Denmark...

, or military road, which enabled his armies to cover Viking movements at sea. For example, see Daw's Castle
Daw's Castle
Daw's Castle is a sea cliff hill fort just west of Watchet, a harbour town in Somerset, England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.The name comes from Thomas Dawe, who owned castell field in 1537....

 and Battle of Cynwit.

It has been suggested on reasonable evidence that many so-called hill forts were just used to pen in cattle, horses, or other domesticated animals. The large sprawling examples at Bindon Hill
Bindon Hill
Bindon Hill is an extensive Iron Age earthwork enclosing a coastal hill area near Lulworth Cove in Dorset, England.- Location :The Hill is located about 19 kilometres west of Swanage, about six kilometres south west of Wareham and about 17 kilometres south east of Dorchester.Bindon Hill is only...

 and Bathampton Down
Bathampton Down
Bathampton Down, is a flat limestone plateau in Bathampton overlooking Bath, and the River Avon, Somerset, England.There is evidence of man's activity at the site since the Mesolithic period including Bathampton Camp, an Iron Age hillfort or stock enclosure...

 are more than 50 acres (20.2 ha). Even those that were defensive settlements in the Iron Age were sometimes used for coralling animals in later periods. For example, see Coney's Castle
Coney's Castle
Coney's Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in Dorset, England. The name Coney is from the Old English for rabbit , suggesting medieval use as a domestic warren, as at nearby Pilsdon Pen....

, Dolebury Warren
Dolebury Warren
Dolebury Warren is a 90.6 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest near the village of Churchill in North Somerset, notified in 1952...

 and Pilsdon Pen
Pilsdon Pen
Pilsdon Pen is a 277 metre hill in West Dorset, England, situated five miles west of Beaminster at the north end of the Marshwood Vale. It is Dorset's second highest point and has panoramic views extending for many miles...

. However, it is difficult to prove that people definitely did not dwell there, as lack of evidence is not proof of absence.

Examples include:

Central Europe


The Hallstatt
Hallstatt culture
The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Central European culture from the 8th to 6th centuries BC , developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC and followed in much of Central Europe by the La Tène culture.By the 6th century BC, the Hallstatt culture extended for some...

 and La Tene cultures originated in what is now southern Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

 and the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

. However, hill forts were built also in Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and further east, till the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

The predominant form of rampart construction is pfostenschlitzmauer
Pfostenschlitzmauer
Pfostenschlitzmauer is a method of constructing defensive walls protecting Iron Age hillforts and oppida in Central Europe, including Bavaria and the Czech Republic. It is characterized by vertical wooden posts set into the front stone facing. The rampart is constructed from a timber lattice...

, or Kelheim-style. The murus gallicus defenses at Manching were later rebuilt and extended in the pfostenschlitzmauer style.

Examples include:
  • Heuneburg
    Heuneburg
    The Heuneburg is a prehistoric hillfort by the upper Danube. It is located in Hundersingen near Herbertingen, between Ulm and Sigmaringen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is considered one of the most important early Celtic centres in Central Europe...

    , Württemberg
    Württemberg
    Württemberg , formerly known as Wirtemberg or Wurtemberg, is an area and a former state in southwestern Germany, including parts of the regions Swabia and Franconia....

    , Germany
  • Mount Ipf
    Mount Ipf
    The Ipf is a treeless mountain , near Bopfingen, Ostalbkreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany with a prehistoric hill fort on its top.The fort is situated on an isolated hill, with a flattened summit surrounded by a stone wall, ditch and large counterscarp . The overall diameter is about 180 metres...

    , Baden-Württemberg
    Baden-Württemberg
    Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 states of Germany. Baden-Württemberg is in the southwestern part of the country to the east of the Upper Rhine, and is the third largest in both area and population of Germany's sixteen states, with an area of and 10.7 million inhabitants...

    , Germany
  • Kelheim
    Alcimoennis
    Alcimoennis was a Celtic Oppidum, or hill fort, located on the Michelsberg hill, dominating the peninsula between the Danube and Altmühl rivers in northern Bavaria, Germany, above the modern city of Kelheim....

    , Bavaria
    Bavaria
    Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

    , Germany
  • Manching
    Oppidum of Manching
    The Oppidum of Manching was a large Celtic proto-urban or city-like settlement at modern-day Manching , Bavaria . The settlement was founded in the 3rd century BC and existed until c. 50-30 BC. It reached its largest extent during the late La Tène period , when it had a size of 380 hectares...

    , Bavaria
    Bavaria
    Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

    , Germany
  • Staré Hradisko, Moravia
    Moravia
    Moravia is a historical region in Central Europe in the east of the Czech Republic, and one of the former Czech lands, together with Bohemia and Silesia. It takes its name from the Morava River which rises in the northwest of the region...

    , Czech Republic
  • Závist, Bohemia
    Bohemia
    Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

    , Czech Republic
  • Třísov, Bohemia
    Bohemia
    Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

    , Czech Republic
  • Bielsko-Biała
    Bielsko-Biała
    -Economy and Industry:Nowadays Bielsko-Biała is one of the best-developed parts of Poland. It was ranked 2nd best city for business in that country by Forbes. About 5% of people are unemployed . Bielsko-Biała is famous for its textile, machine-building, and especially automotive industry...

    , southern Poland
  • Devín
    Devín
    Devín originally a separate town at the confluence of the Danube and Morava rivers, is now a suburb of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is an important archaeological site, famous for the ruins of Devín Castle...

    , Bratislava
    Bratislava
    Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 431,000, also the country's largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.Bratislava...

    , Slovakia

Estonia


The Estonian
Estonian language
Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities...

 word for hill fort is linnamägi (plural linnamäed), meaning hillfort or hillburgh. There are several hundred hill forts or presumed ancient hill fort sites all over Estonia. Some of them, like Toompea
Toompea
Toompea is a limestone hill in the central part of the city of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The hill is an oblong tableland, which measures about 400 by 250 metres, has an area of and is about 20–30 metres higher than the surrounding areas...

 in Tallinn or Toomemägi
Tartu
Tartu is the second largest city of Estonia. In contrast to Estonia's political and financial capital Tallinn, Tartu is often considered the intellectual and cultural hub, especially since it is home to Estonia's oldest and most renowned university. Situated 186 km southeast of Tallinn, the...

 in Tartu, are governance centres used since ancient times up until today. Some others, like Varbola
Varbola Stronghold
The Varbola Stronghold was the largest circular rampart fortress and trading centre built in Estonia, in Harju County in the 10th – 12th centuries. Parts of the ruins of the 580 metre long and 8-10 metre high limestone wall of the fortress stand til this day. The long gateways with...

 are historical sites nowadays.

Most likely the Estonian hill forts were in pre-Christian times administrative, economic and military centres of Estonian tribes
Ancient Estonia
Ancient Estonia refers to a period covering History of Estonia from the middle of the 8th millennium BC until the conquest and subjugation of the Estonian people in the first quarter of the 13th century during the Northern Crusades.-The Mesolithic Period:...

. Although some of them were probably used only during times of crisis and stood empty in peacetime (for example Soontagana in Koonga parish, Pärnu county
Pärnu County
Pärnu County , or Pärnumaa , is one of 15 counties of Estonia. It is situated in south-western part of the country, on the coast of Gulf of Riga, and borders Lääne and Rapla counties to the north, Järva and Viljandi counties to the east, and Latvia to the south...

.

Examples include:
  • Varbola
    Varbola Stronghold
    The Varbola Stronghold was the largest circular rampart fortress and trading centre built in Estonia, in Harju County in the 10th – 12th centuries. Parts of the ruins of the 580 metre long and 8-10 metre high limestone wall of the fortress stand til this day. The long gateways with...

     (Estonia)

France


The Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

ish hero Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, who united the Gauls in an ultimately unsuccessful revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars....

 was famously besieged by Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 in the hill fort of Alesia
Alesia
-Places:France*Alesia , an ancient city in Gaul**Battle of Alesia*Alésia , a station in the Paris Métro*Rue d'Alésia, Paris*Le quartier Alésia, an unofficial district of Paris that mostly overlaps Petit-MontrougeUnited States...

. The predominant form of rampart construction was murus gallicus
Murus Gallicus
Murus Gallicus or Gallic Wall is a method of construction of defensive walls used to protect Iron Age hillforts and oppida of the La Tene period in Western Europe.The distinctive features are:* earth or rubble fill...

.

Examples include:
  • Alesia
    Alesia
    -Places:France*Alesia , an ancient city in Gaul**Battle of Alesia*Alésia , a station in the Paris Métro*Rue d'Alésia, Paris*Le quartier Alésia, an unofficial district of Paris that mostly overlaps Petit-MontrougeUnited States...

  • Bibracte
    Bibracte
    Bibracte, a Gaulish oppidum or fortified city, was the capital of the Aedui and one of the most important hillforts in Gaul. It was situated near modern Autun in Burgundy, France. The material culture of the Aedui corresponded to the Late Iron Age La Tène culture,In 58 BC, at the Battle of...

     (Mont Beuvray)
  • Mont St. Odile
    Odile
    St Odile of Alsace is a saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, although according to the current liturgical calendar her feastday is not officially commemorated. She is a patroness of good eyesight.She was the daughter of Etichon , Duke of Alsace. She was born blind...

     (Mur Païen)
  • Le Camp d'Artus, Huelgoat
    Huelgoat
    Huelgoat is a commune in the Finistère department of Brittany in northwestern France.-Population:Inhabitants of Huelgoat are called in French Huelgoatains.-Geography:...


Ireland


A Bronze-age and Iron-age type of defended settlement from prehistoric Ireland is the hill-fort: a large circular type between 1 and 40 acres (more usually 5-10acres) enclosed by a stone wall or earthen rampart or both. These hill-forts are strategically located on top of large stand alone hills if possible to ensure maximum defence against raids from neighbouring enemies. These would have been tribally important centres where the Chief or King of the area would live with his extended family and support themselves by farming and renting cattle to their underlings.

There are around 40 known hill-forts known in Ireland: about 12 are multivallate forts, as distinguished by multiple ramparts, or a large counterscarp
Counterscarp
A scarp and a counterscarp are the inner and outer sides of a ditch used in fortifications. In permanent fortifications the scarp and counterscarp may be encased in stone...

 (outer bank). The imposing example at Mooghaun is defended by multiple stone walls. One must be careful to not confuse a hill-fort with a 'ringfort' a medieval settlement a common archaeological feature across the whole island of Ireland, over 40,000 examples are known.

Some hill-forts have cairns inside their boundaries and there are many speculations about this phenomenon, the theories range from being a strange cult religion to just co-incidence the same kind of area as they both like (hill tops with commanding views of the local vicinity), the excavation at Freestone Hill in Co. Kilkenny has shown that there was indeed a ditch cut out around the cairn, evidence that they had respect for the feature no matter what they believed about it.

Examples include:
  • Lyles Hill, Co. Antrim
  • Maghera Temple, Co. Cavan
  • Mooghaun, Co. Clare (multivallate)
  • Grianán of Aileach
    Grianan of Aileach
    The Grianán of Aileach is a group of historic monuments in County Donegal, Ireland built on the hill of Grianán which is 244 metres high. Most writers have identified the site as being the great “royal fort” of Aileach...

    , Co. Donegal (multivallate)
  • Dunbeg, Co. Down
  • Downpatrick, Co. Down
  • Caherconree
    Caherconree
    Caherconree is a mountain peak on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland. At 835 m , it is the second-highest peak of the Slieve Mish Mountains and the 26th highest in Ireland.-Geography:...

    , Co. Kerry
  • Dún Ailinne
    Dún Ailinne
    Dún Ailinne, on the hill called Knockaulin, is a large enclosed archaeological site in County Kildare, Ireland. It lies close to the modern N78 road to Athy, south-west of Kilcullen , and immediately adjacent to the lower rise on which sits Old Kilcullen. The site comprises 13 hectares surrounded...

    , Co. Kildare
  • Dunmurray Hill, Co. Kildare
  • Freestone Hill, Co. Kilkenny
  • Spa Hill, Co. Kilkenny
  • Rath Meave at Tara, Co. Meath
  • Clogher, Co. Tyrone
  • Emain Macha
    Emain Macha
    ]Navan Fort – known in Old Irish as Eṁaın Ṁacha and in Modern Irish as Eamhain Mhacha – is an ancient monument in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. According to Irish legend, it was one of the major power centers of pre-Christian Ireland...

    , Co. Armagh
  • Brusselstown Ring, Co. Wicklow
  • Rathgall, Co. Wicklow (multivallate)

Lithuania



The Lithuanian
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 word for hill fort is piliakalnis (plural piliakalniai), from pilis (=castle) and kalnas (=mountain, hill).

Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

 has hill forts dating from the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 in the 1st millennium BC
1st millennium BC
The 1st millennium BC encompasses the Iron Age and sees the rise of many successive empires, and spanned from 1000 BC to 1 BC.The Neo-Assyrian Empire, followed by the Achaemenids. In Greece, Classical Antiquity begins with the colonization of Magna Graecia and peaks with the rise of Hellenism. The...

. The earliest examples in present day Lithuania are found in the east of the country. Most of these forts were built or expanded between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, when they were used in the Dukes' Wars, and against the invasion of Teutonic Knights from the west. Most forts were located on the banks of a river, or a confluence where two rivers met. These fortifications were typically wooden, although some had additional stone or brick walls. The hill was usually sculpted for defensive purposes, with the top flattened and the natural slopes made steeper for defense.

During the early years of Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 piliakalniai played a major role in conflicts with the Livonian Order
Livonian Brothers of the Sword
The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks"...

 and the Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem , commonly the Teutonic Order , is a German medieval military order, in modern times a purely religious Catholic order...

. During this period the number of piliakalniai decreased, but those that remained had stronger fortifications. Two main defense lines developed: one along the Neman River
Neman River
Neman or Niemen or Nemunas, is a major Eastern European river rising in Belarus and flowing through Lithuania before draining into the Curonian Lagoon and then into the Baltic Sea at Klaipėda. It is the northern border between Lithuania and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast in its lower reaches...

 (against the Teutonic Order) and another along the border with Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

. Two other lines started to form, but did not fully develop. One was to protect Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, the capital, and the other line in Samogitia
Samogitia
Samogitia is one of the five ethnographic regions of Lithuania. It is located in northwestern Lithuania. Its largest city is Šiauliai/Šiaulē. The region has a long and distinct cultural history, reflected in the existence of the Samogitian dialect...

, was a major target for both orders. This territory separated the two Orders and prevented joint action between them and Pagan Lithuania.

Most of the forts were constructed of wood and were quite easy to burn. As firearms and artillery developed, piliakalnis and their castles became ineffective. Also, the Livonian Order was defeated in 1236 in the Battle of Saule. The Teutonic Knights suffered a major defeat in 1410 in the Battle of Grunwald
Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald or 1st Battle of Tannenberg was fought on 15 July 1410, during the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. The alliance of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led respectively by King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas , decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights, led...

 and did not pose any further major threat.

According to the Lietuvos piliakalnių atlasas (English: Atlas of Piliakalniai in Lithuania), there were 826 piliakalniai in Lithuania. Some researchers present a total number of 840 known piliakalnis in 2007; the number is likely to increase as even more of them are discovered every year. Most piliakalniai are located near rivers and are endangered by erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

: many have partly collapsed as the flooded river has washed out the base of the hill. Now around 80 percent of piliakalniai are covered by forests and are hardly accessible to visitors.

Examples include:
  • Kernavė
    Kernave
    Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site . It is located in the Širvintos district municipality located in southeast Lithuania...

    , (Lithuania, a World Heritage Site)

Portugal and Spain




In Galicia, Asturias
Asturias
The Principality of Asturias is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, coextensive with the former Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages...

, Cantabria
Cantabria
Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community with Santander as its capital city. It is bordered on the east by the Basque Autonomous Community , on the south by Castile and León , on the west by the Principality of Asturias, and on the north by the Cantabrian Sea.Cantabria...

, Basque Country
Basque Country (autonomous community)
The Basque Country is an autonomous community of northern Spain. It includes the Basque provinces of Álava, Biscay and Gipuzkoa, also called Historical Territories....

, province of Ávila and Northern Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 a castro is a fortified pre-Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

, usually located on a hill or some naturally easy defendable place. The larger hill forts are also called citanias, cividades or cidás (English: cities).
These castros were located on hilltops, which allowed tactical
Military tactics
Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

 control over the surrounding countryside and provided natural defenses. They usually had available a spring
Spring (hydrosphere)
A spring—also known as a rising or resurgence—is a component of the hydrosphere. Specifically, it is any natural situation where water flows to the surface of the earth from underground...

 or small creek
Stream
A stream is a body of water with a current, confined within a bed and stream banks. Depending on its locale or certain characteristics, a stream may be referred to as a branch, brook, beck, burn, creek, "crick", gill , kill, lick, rill, river, syke, bayou, rivulet, streamage, wash, run or...

 to provide water; some even had large reservoirs to use during siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

s. Typically, a castro had one to five stone and earth wall
Wall
A wall is a usually solid structure that defines and sometimes protects an area. Most commonly, a wall delineates a building and supports its superstructure, separates space in buildings into rooms, or protects or delineates a space in the open air...

s, which complements the natural defenses of the hill. The buildings inside, most of them circular in shape, some rectangular, were about 3.5 metre long; they were made out of stone with thatch roofs resting on a wood column in the centre of the building. In the major oppida there were regular streets, suggesting some form of central organization. Castros vary in surface from less than an hectare to some 50 ones, and most were abandoned after the Roman conquest of the territory.

Many castros were already established during the Atlantic Bronze Age
Atlantic Bronze Age
The Atlantic Bronze Age is a cultural complex of the Bronze Age period of approximately 1300–700 BC that includes different cultures in Portugal, Andalusia, Galicia, Armorica and the British Isles.-Trade:...

 period, predating Hallstatt culture
Hallstatt culture
The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Central European culture from the 8th to 6th centuries BC , developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC and followed in much of Central Europe by the La Tène culture.By the 6th century BC, the Hallstatt culture extended for some...

.

Many of the megalith
Megalith
A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. Megalithic describes structures made of such large stones, utilizing an interlocking system without the use of mortar or cement.The word 'megalith' comes from the Ancient...

s from the Bronze Age such as menhir
Menhir
A menhir is a large upright standing stone. Menhirs may be found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Their size can vary considerably; but their shape is generally uneven and squared, often tapering towards the top...

s and dolmen
Dolmen
A dolmen—also known as a portal tomb, portal grave, dolmain , cromlech , anta , Hünengrab/Hünenbett , Adamra , Ispun , Hunebed , dös , goindol or quoit—is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of...

s, which are frequently located near the castros, also predate the Celts in Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, Asturias
Asturias
The Principality of Asturias is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, coextensive with the former Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages...

 and Galicia as well as in Atlantic France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Britain and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. These megaliths were probably reused in syncretic rituals by the Celtic Druid
Druid
A druid was a member of the priestly class in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, and possibly other parts of Celtic western Europe, during the Iron Age....

s.

The Celtiberian
Celtiberians
The Celtiberians were Celtic-speaking people of the Iberian Peninsula in the final centuries BC. The group used the Celtic Celtiberian language.Archaeologically, the Celtiberians participated in the Hallstatt culture in what is now north-central Spain...

 people occupied an inland region in central northern Spain, straddling the upper valleys of the Ebro
Ebro
The Ebro or Ebre is one of the most important rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.The Ebro flows through the following cities:*Reinosa in Cantabria.*Miranda de Ebro in Castile and León....

, Douro
Douro
The Douro or Duero is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula, flowing from its source near Duruelo de la Sierra in Soria Province across northern-central Spain and Portugal to its outlet at Porto...

 and Tajo. They built hillforts, fortified hilltop towns and oppida, including Numantia
Numantia
Numantia is the name of an ancient Celtiberian settlement, whose remains are located 7 km north of the city of Soria, on a hill known as Cerro de la Muela in the municipality of Garray....

.

Archaeological sites:
  • Citânia de Sanfins, Paços de Ferreira
    Paços de Ferreira
    Paços de Ferreira is a city in Portugal. It is sometimes also called Capital do Móvel , since the city is home to numerous furniture manufacturing plants. Besides older Portuguese furniture companies, Portugal's major industrial operations of IKEA are also located there...

    , Portugal
  • Citânia de Briteiros
    Citânia de Briteiros
    The Citânia de Briteiros is an archaeological site of Castro culture in the north-western Iberian Peninsula, significant for its size, urbanism, and architecture...

    , Portugal
  • Castro de Ovil, Portugal
    Portugal
    Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

  • Castro Laboreiro
    Castro Laboreiro
    Castro Laboreiro is a village in northern Portugal, one of the 18 parishes of the Melgaço munincipality, in the district of Viana do Castelo. It is in the mountain range of the Laboreiro. As of 2001 the area had 726 inhabitants...

    , Portugal
  • Castro Verde, Alentejo, Portugal

By region:
  • List of castros in Asturias
  • List of castros in Galicia
  • List of castros in Cantabria
  • List of castros in Basque Country
  • List of castros in Ávila

Scandinavia and Russia


In Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

 and northern Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, hill forts are fortifications from the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 which may have had several functions. They are usually located on the crests of hills and mountains making use of precipices and marsh
Marsh
In geography, a marsh, or morass, is a type of wetland that is subject to frequent or continuous flood. Typically the water is shallow and features grasses, rushes, reeds, typhas, sedges, other herbaceous plants, and moss....

es which worked as natural defenses. The crests' more accessible parts were defended with walls of stone and outer walls in the slopes beneath are common. Round and closed, so called, ring forts are common even on flat ground. The walls often have remaining parts of stone, which were probably the support of pales. They often have well delineated gateways, the gates of which were probably of wood. Hill forts with strong walls are often located beside old trading routes
Trade route
A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries which may further be connected to several smaller networks of commercial...

 and have an offensive character, whereas others are reclusive and were weakly fortified, probably only for hiding during raids.

Many forts, located centrally in densely populated areas, were permanently settled strongholds and can show traces of settlements both inside and outside. Older place names containing the element sten/stein were usually hill forts.

In Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, there are 1100 known hill forts with a strong concentration on the northern west coast and in eastern Svealand
Svealand
Svealand , Swealand or Sweden proper is the historical core region of Sweden. It is located in south central Sweden and is one of three lands of Sweden, bounded to the north by Norrland and to the south by Götaland. Deep forests, Tiveden, Tylöskog, Kolmården, separated Svealand from Götaland...

. Only in Södermanland
Södermanland
', sometimes referred to under its Latin form Sudermannia or Sudermania, is a historical province or landskap on the south eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Östergötland, Närke, Västmanland and Uppland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea.In Swedish, the province name is...

, there are 300, in Uppland
Uppland
Uppland is a historical province or landskap on the eastern coast of Sweden, just north of Stockholm, the capital. It borders Södermanland, Västmanland and Gästrikland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic sea...

 150, Östergötland
Östergötland
Östergötland, English exonym: East Gothland, is one of the traditional provinces of Sweden in the south of Sweden. It borders Småland, Västergötland, Närke, Södermanland, and the Baltic Sea. In older English literature, one might also encounter the Latinized version, Ostrogothia...

 130 and Bohuslän
Bohuslän
' is a Swedish traditional province, or landskap, situated in Götaland on the northernmost part of the country's west coast. It is bordered by Dalsland to the northeast, Västergötland to the southeast, the Skagerrak arm of the North Sea to the west, and the county of Østfold in Norway to the north...

 and Gotland
Gotland
Gotland is a county, province, municipality and diocese of Sweden; it is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. At 3,140 square kilometers in area, the region makes up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area...

 90-100 each.

On the island of Gotland
Gotland
Gotland is a county, province, municipality and diocese of Sweden; it is Sweden's largest island and the largest island in the Baltic Sea. At 3,140 square kilometers in area, the region makes up less than one percent of Sweden's total land area...

, located in southeastern Sweden, ring forts can be from the Pre-Roman Iron Age
Pre-Roman Iron Age
The Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe designates the earliest part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and the Netherlands north of the Rhine River. These regions feature many extensive archaeological excavation sites, which have yielded a wealth of artifacts...

, but findings from the period 200 AD- 600 AD dominate. Many were still in use during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

The Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

 word for hill fort is linnavuori (plural linnavuoret), from linna (fort, castle) and vuori (mountain). Finnish forts were constructed mostly of wood.

Examples include:
  • Runsa
    Runsa
    .Runsa is the site of the ruins of an ancient fortification located in Upplands Väsby Municipality in Sweden.-History:Runsa was a prehistoric hill fortification. Runsa was strategically situated on a 30 meter high rock promontory in Lake Mälaren, with views towards Sigtuna. The ancient fort...

    , Sweden
  • Torsburgen
    Torsburgen
    Torsburgen was an ancient fortress on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland belonging to Sweden. It was originally constructed at the beginning of the 1st century AD later reinforced during the 4th century and was in use until c. 1100 AD. A timber-laced stone rampart encircles an area of 12 hectares...

    , Sweden
  • Ismantorp
    Ismantorp Fortress
    Ismantorp Fortress is a ringfort located on Öland Island in Sweden constructed during the Migration Period.-Description:One of approximately 20 known ringforts located on Öland, Ismantorp was never permanently occupied following its construction in about 200 CE, but used occasionally until...

    , Sweden
  • Tingstäde Träsk, Sweden
  • Lyubsha
    Lyubsha
    Lyubsha is an archaeological site situated on the right bank of the Volkhov, about 1,500 metres downstream from Staraya Ladoga. As was established by the 1993 excavations, Lyubsha is the site of the earliest Varangian fort in Russia, established in the first half of the 8th century, thus predating...

  • Alaborg
    Alaborg
    Álaborg or Áluborg is the name of a Varangian fort mentioned in the Norse sagas about Halfdan Eysteinsson and Hrolf Ganger. The first saga indicates that it was possible to sail from Aldeigjuborg to Alaborg northward by sea, but a more rapid and practicable way was by land eastward...

  • Gnezdovo
    Gnezdovo
    Gnezdovo or Gnyozdovo is an archeological site located near the village of Gnyozdovo in Smolensk Oblast, Russia. The site contains extensive remains of a Slavic-Varangian settlement that flourished in the 10th century as a major trade station on the trade route from the Varangians to the...

  • Old Castle of Lieto
    Old Castle of Lieto
    Old Castle of Lieto is a formerly fortified hill in Lieto, Finland. The original name of the castle is not known. According to excavations, the castle has been in use in the Late Bronze Age , in Middle Iron Age and in the Middle Ages up to the end of the 14th century, when it was replaced by the...


Further reading

  • The Ancient Celts, Barry Cunliffe
    Barry Cunliffe
    Sir Barrington Windsor Cunliffe, CBE, known professionally as Barry Cunliffe is a former Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford, a position held from 1972 to 2007...

    (1997) ISBN 0-14-025422-6
  • Celtic Fortifications, Ian Ralston (2006) ISBN 0-7524-2500-5