Maiden Castle

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Maiden Castle from the north

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Maiden Castle is a hill fort, mostly dating from the Iron Age, situated 2 miles south of Dorchester, in Dorset, England. The earthworks cover around 180,000; and are up to 6m high. The site is maintained by English Heritage. The site is the largest hill fort in Europe[1]

Excavations at the site have dated construction of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure back to around 4000 BC. An extensive bank and ditch as well as a bank barrow burial mound are evident from this period at the eastern end.

However most of the works at the site date from around 450 to 300 BC, when an earlier Iron Age hillfort dating to c. 600 BC was extended and enlarged with three new ditch-and-bank earthworks built creating the main fortifications in a set of three concentric rings with offset entrance points.

The fort was probably occupied by the Durotriges, a Celtic tribe at the time of the Roman invasion. The site may have been attacked and invested by the 2nd Legion under Vespasian in AD 43. Mortimer Wheeler created a vivid account of the fall of the hill fort in his report following the excavations of 1934-1937. Later examination of his records by Niall Sharples has largely discounted this interpretation and it is no longer thought that the fort was besieged or violently taken by the Romans.

The Romans occupied the site but concentrated their efforts in the area around Durnovaria. There was some Roman construction at the site, including a small temple built around AD 400. The site was abandoned by the Romans soon after that date and was not re-occupied, remaining deserted from then on.

The name Maiden is believed to derive from the Brythonic for great hill, mai dun.

See also

External links

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