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Making the invisible visible; New Survey and investigation of the Iron Age Hillforts of Bigbury and Oldbury in Kent

Bates, Andrew (2017) Making the invisible visible; New Survey and investigation of the Iron Age Hillforts of Bigbury and Oldbury in Kent. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:66317)

Language: English
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Bigbury and Oldbury are two significant monuments of the Iron Age, yet their dates, use and importance are not well understood. This Thesis has employed a series of methods and approaches, with the aim of addressing the shortfall in our knowledge. The results help to place these sites in a wider landscape and contextual setting.

Oldbury, at an area of 50ha, is one of the largest Hillforts in Britain; despite the scale of endeavour in constructing its massive earthwork circuit, it has been suggested by its excavators that it was probably not permanently occupied. This research, (in particular by the application of an extensive geophysics survey of over 50% of the interior), revealed that this suggestion requires further examination. The survey identified potential zones of activity within the interior and a possible indication that there may have been a smaller Hillfort or enclosure before the present ramparts were constructed. The research also brings together all of the available previous studies of the site for comparative analysis as well as relevant finds data from the Kent HER and other sources. Coupled with this data, the study investigates the location and visibility of Oldbury within the Iron Age landscape to understand the possible uses of the monument.

Famous for its multifarious ironwork hoard, the Hillfort at Bigbury is thought by some to have been a forerunner to present day Canterbury and there is a consensus amongst the modern commentators that Bigbury was the Hillfort attacked by Caesar during his 54BC campaign in Britain (though this remains unproven). In fact, beyond the ramparts, little detail is known of the pre-historic character of Bigbury or the hinterland of Bigbury and how the monument sits within the much wider Iron Age landscape. This research, using a combination of disciplines, shows that stratified and dateable archaeology exists around the immediate Hillfort environs, much of it at depth not easily detectable with standard geophysics equipment. The results of the present study also reveal a much longer chronology to the site than hitherto realized, showing that an area just outside of the ramparts was occupied probably during the Bronze Age and through to the early Iron Age. When this is coupled with the evidence of Middle and Late Iron Age activity previously discovered on the ridge (a probable ancient route way), which the ramparts straddle, it clearly demonstrates a continuity of settlement in and around the Hillfort for at least 1500 years before the Romans arrived.

This study also shows that the complex at Bigbury is not only the visible, spatially discrete, centred ramparts we see today but was probably part of a two tier complex of linear earthworks. One of these two is around 150m from the south eastern ramparts and could define the extent of the Hillfort overlooking the River Stour and the second is more extensive, stretching back west along the ridge several kilometres, putting Bigbury potentially in a similar category to that of the oppida at Chichester and Colchester with their associated dyke system.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Willis, Steve
Thesis advisor: Lavan, Luke
Uncontrolled keywords: Iron Age, Hillforts, Bigbury, Oldbury
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2018 10:24 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 09:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bates, Andrew.

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