« PreviousContinue »
CLASSIFICATION OF EARTHWORKS
drew up the classification of earthworks which is now being generally adopted by archæological writers. This classification may be abridged into (a) promontory or cliff forts, (6) hill forts, (c) rectangular forts, (d) moated hillocks, (e) moated hillocks with courts attached, (ƒ) banks and ditches surrounding homesteads, (g) manorial works, (h) fortified villages.
We venture to think that still further divisions are needed, to include (1) boundary earthworks; (2) sepulchral or religious circles or squares; (3) enclosures clearly non-military, intended to protect sheep and cattle from wolves, or to aid in the capture of wild animals.1
This classification, it will be observed, makes no attempt to decide the dates of the different types of earthworks enumerated. But a great step forward was taken when these different types were separated from one another. There had been no greater source of confusion in the writings of our older antiquaries, than the unscientific idea that one earthwork was as good as another; that is to say, that one type of earthwork would do as well as another for any date or any circumstances. When it is recognised that large classes of earthworks show similar features, it becomes probable that even if they were not thrown up in the same historic period, they were at any rate raised to meet similar sets of circumstances. We may be quite sure that a camp which contains an area of 60 or 80 acres was not constructed for the same purpose as one which only contains an area of three.
not concerned here, however, with the
1 In the paper on Earthworks in the second volume of the Victoria County History of Yorkshire, this subdivision of the promiscuous class X., is used.
attempt to disentangle the dates of the various classes of prehistoric earthworks. Such generalisations are for the most part premature; and although some advance is being made in this direction, it is still impossible to decide without excavation whether a camp of class (a) or (6) belongs to the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age. Our business is with classes (d) and (e) of Mr Gould's list, that is, with the moated hillocks. We shall only treat of the other classes to the extent which is necessary to bring out the special character of classes (d) and (e).
Let us look more closely into these earthworks in their perfect form, the class (e) of the Earthwork Committee's list. They consist, when fully preserved, of an artificial hillock, 20, 30, 40, or in some rare instances 100 feet high. The hillock carried a breastwork of earth round the top, which in many cases is still preserved; this breastwork enclosed a small court, sometimes only 30 feet in diameter, in rare cases as large as half an acre; it must have been crowned by a stockade of timber, and the representations in the Bayeux Tapestry would lead us to think that it always enclosed a wooden tower. As a rule the hillock is round, but it is not unfrequently oval, and occasionally square. The base of the hillock is surrounded by a ditch. Below the hillock is a court, much larger than the small space enclosed on the top of the mount. It also has been surrounded by a ditch, which joins the ditch of the mount, and thus encloses the whole fortification. The court is defended by earthen banks, both on the scarp and counterscarp of the ditch, and these banks
1 Since the above was written, Mr Hadrian Allcroft's work on Earthwork of England has furnished an admirable text-book of this subject. 2 See Frontispiece.
MAIN FEATURES OF CLASS E
of course had also their timber stockades, the remains of which have sometimes been found on excavation.1
These are the main features of the earthworks in question. Some variations may be noticed. The ditch is not invariably carried all round the hillock, occasionally it is not continued between the hillock and the court. Sometimes the length of the ditch separating the hillock from the court is at a higher level than the main ditch. Often the ditches were evidently dry from the first, but not infrequently they are wet, and sometimes vestiges of the arrangements for feeding them are still apparent. The hillock is not invariably artificial; often it is a natural hill scarped into a conical shape; sometimes an isolated rock is made use of to serve as a citadel, which saved much spade-work. The shape of the court is very variable: it may be square or oblong, with greatly rounded corners, or it may be oval, or semilunar, or triangular; a very common form is the bean-shaped. The area covered by these fortifications is much more uniform; one of the features contrasting them most strongly with the great prehistoric "camps of southern England is their comparatively small size. We know of only one (Skipsea) in which the bailey covers as much as eight acres; in by far the greater number the whole area included in the hillock, court, and ditches does not exceed three acres, and often it is not more than one and a half.*
Now this type of fort will tell us a good deal about
1 See Fig. I.
2 For instance, at Berkeley, Ewias Harold, Yelden, and Tomen y Roddwy.
3 As at Rayleigh and Downpatrick.
* In some of these castles there is no gap in the bailey banks for an entrance. They must have been entered by a movable wooden stair, such as horses can be taught to climb. See the plan of Topcliffe Castle, Yorks (Fig. 1).