Sunday, March 22, 2009

The hibernating snails

When visiting Danebury Hill Fort we came across this strange sight - probably hibernating snails. They were very specific, clustering only on the east side of a few carefully selected trees, in nooks and crannies and firmly stuck to the branch or trunk.

We also found them, sparsley, on some yew trees, but here the birds had obviously had a good feast judging from the mounds of empty shells lying on the ground.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Danebury Hill Fort

Today we visited Danebury Iron Age hill fort with friends who live in Smannell. Danebury is estimated to be about 2500 years old, putting it in the mid Iron Age, which stretched from 700 BC to AD43, and it is thought that it was occupied for getting on for 500 years up to when the Romans arrived. Nowadays you can see the ring of outer ramparts and the entrance, and there is also a distinct high point within this ring, which would have been the focal point for ‘village’ meetings and religious ceremony.
When the fort was constructed the first part would be to dig the outer ditch; then, using this earth the ramparts were constructed. In the beginning a timber wall would be used as the front support of the rampart, which eventually rotted away. Although two gates were built originally, the people filled in the west gate and only used the east gate for access.
Danebury was occupied by a community of between three and four hundred people for over 400 years. They were farming people who grew crops; kept sheep and cattle; wove cloth from the wool; and made leather goods from the hide of their animals. These the Danebury people would trade for iron, copper, tin, salt among other commodities. The fort was built, probably, to protect the people and their livestock and grain from raiders. This was done by the whole community slinging stones at would be attackers from the ramparts.
The Danebury people are thought to have been druids, worshipping the pagan gods of the river, trees and other natural features. As such they did make sacrifices to these gods and burials found at the site are thought to be sacrificial.
Evidence has been found of 73 roundhouses and 500 rectangular buildings, not to mention thousands of deep storage pits. Only ten pits were in use at any given time, it is thought. The pits and rectangular buildings stored the most important commodity, grain; the roundhouses were dwellings. Many ‘finds’ from the archaeological excavation can be seen at the Museum of the Iron Age in Andover. The Danebury archaeological excavations, led by Professor Barry Cunliffe of Oxford University, took place from 1969 to 1988. By this time 57% of the interior had been excavated.
Today Danebury Hill Fort is a nationally important Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.