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Mythmakers of Maiden Castle: Breaking the Siege Mentality of an Iron Age Hillfort.

Russell, M., 2019. Mythmakers of Maiden Castle: Breaking the Siege Mentality of an Iron Age Hillfort. Oxford journal of archaeology, 38 (3), 325-342.

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ojoa.12172 (1).pdf - Published Version
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DOI: 10.1111/ojoa.12172


The idea that an invading Roman army brought about the end of hillforts in south-west Britain, using artillery fire to demoralize and defeat their enemy, is one of the most powerful narratives in British archaeology, being a constant element in both academic literature and public discourse. At the heart of the debate is the evidence recovered by Mortimer Wheeler during fieldwork conducted at Maiden Castle, in Dorset, between 1936–37. Wheeler interpreted a series of burials found in the east gate of the hillfort as a ‘war cemetery’, residue of an ultimately futile defence of the site, in the face of Roman aggression, by the local Durotriges tribe. A recent survey of hillforts in Dorset has, however, cast significant doubt on Wheeler’s hypothesis, suggesting that not only is the widely accepted battle-theory unsupported by the archaeological evidence, but also that the Durotriges themselves were unconnected to any fortification or defence of Maiden Castle. This paper explores the conclusions of that survey, examining how the dramatic story of a siege first took shape in the late 1930s and why it became so immediately popular with the public. The problems of linking material remains to postulated historical events are outlined and the beginnings of a new model for Late Iron Age settlement at Maiden Castle are presented for the first time.

Item Type:Article
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:34831
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:16 Nov 2020 11:57
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:25


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