Hambledon Hill and the story of human history in the UK

National Trust archaeologist Martin Papworth explains why Hambledon Hill is such a special place for the story it tells of the British Isles over thousands of years:

“Dorset is internationally renowned for its hillforts. Hambledon Hill is of pre-eminent significance and only challenged by Maiden Castle for the successive phases of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age archaeological features contained within its ramparts.

A very special hillfort, Hambledon Hill is rich in human history.  Credit: Ross Hoddinott

A very special hillfort, Hambledon Hill is rich in human history. Credit: Ross Hoddinott

However Hambledon’s archaeological earthworks and buried features are far better preserved and more clearly visible on the ground than at Maiden Castle because they haven’t been ploughed.

Hambledon overlies part of an exceptional complex of Neolithic causewayed enclosures, used by academics and experts to illustrate the nature of our earliest farming societies over 5,500 years ago.

Hambledon’s remains include evidence for communal occupation, feasting, conflict, exhumation and burial. Finds of polished axes from the Lake District, Wales and Cornwall demonstrate its wide-ranging importance for trade and exchange at this time.

The continuing significance of Hambledon for burial is demonstrated by the Neolithic long barrow (around 3500-3000BC) that occupies the crest of the hill and the five Early Bronze Age round barrows (around 2200-1600 BC) that lie around it.

The visual impact of the site is enhanced by the drama of its massive sinuous ramparts and ditches. They follow the contours of the hill, replacing a Late Bronze Age (around 1000-800BC) settlement enclosure. Throughout the Iron Age, this imposing landscape statement developed as a complex of defensive earthworks with additional ramparts and gateway outworks added at various times from around 600BC. Within the defences are the terraces for over 300 round houses enabling visitors to walk down streets and visualise a thriving community.

Today’s stunning views across the Blackmoor Vale into Wiltshire and Somerset offer an immediate understanding of the prehistoric advantage of this strategic place.

Hambledon is the northern archaeological partner to Hod Hill which shares this chalk outlier defined by the rivers Iwerne to the east and Stour to the south and west. Hod has little occupation evidence from early prehistory but becomes increasingly dominant from around 300BC.

Hambledon holds the evidence for earliest British prehistoric settlement and Hod continues the story up to the Roman Conquest.

Hambledon and Hod are two halves of a whole and are of such importance that joint conservation ownership and management offers the best conservation protection for these exceptional sites.”

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