The Great Ridge forms a backbone of chalk above the river valleys of the Wylye, to the north, and the Nadder, to the south. The top of the ridge is capped with clay-with-flints (Grinsell 1957: 12), and then a fine silt, possibly a loess (Rackham 1976: 6). Rackham also suggests that there may be a perched water table leading to springs on the ridge itself (Rackham 1976: 7).

The amount of woodland on the Ridge has varied, although Rackham cites the presence of a wide range of woodland flora as evidence that there has been a persistent core of woodland (Rackham 1976 : 13).

Figure 1: Approximate area of native woodland on the Ridge over the last 2500 years. Source: Rackham 1976 Figure 2

According to data from the Wiltshire SMR, the evidence for activity in the Neolithic includes a cluster of long barrows near the parish boundaries around Sherrington  and a series of findspots.

The use of the ridge for burial activity seems to have continued into the Early Bronze Age, with several clusters of round barrows in the area (Howarth 2009 : 129).

A study of the SMR mapping shows that most of the visible area of the ridge is covered with field systems. Most of these have no direct dating evidence. It is not always possible to distinguish between LBA, IA and RB field system based on morphology alone (Bradley & Yates 2007), but field systems start to appear in Wessex in the mid to late Bronze Age (Field 2008 :202) as land-use intensifies and previously open land becomes enclosed (Serjeantson 2007: 80). However, some of the field systems here appear to overlie Iron Age activity e.g. over the ditch of Grovely Castle (NMR SU 03 NW 21), and therefore post-date it, suggesting a definition in the Iron Age or Romano-British period.

Grovely Castle (NMR SU 03 NW 21) presents as a univallate hillfort, with an unfinished ‘lumpy’ rampart to the south-west, possibly betraying construction technique (Corney 2006 :136) and reminiscent of the unfinished hillfort at Ladle Hill (Piggott 1931). From pottery buried in the ramparts, an ‘Iron Age A’ date is given (1978: 26), which would appear to be early (Hawkes 1959).

Settlement on the ridge reaches its maximum during the late Iron Age into the Romano-British period, with a complex of nucleated settlements developing (Corney 1989 :116): Stockton Earthworks, Hanging Langford Camp, Ebsbury (Grovely Earthworks) and Hamshill Ditches. There may be earlier, unenclosed, settlement but as Thomas (1997 :212) points out, this is less archaeologically visible. Smith notes in particular an absence of evidence for MIA on the ridge (1978: 27). He does indicate that there may be MIA down in the valley, based on pits and linears on aerial photographs (ibid: 28) and suggests that this abandoning of the ridge-top may be due to the exhaustion of the soils by EIA exploitation (ibid: 29).

Figure 2: Romano-British earthworks on the Ridge. Source: Rackham 1976 Figure 5

Ebsbury, Stockton Earthworks, Hanging Langford Camp and Hamshill Ditches are all of a type of site classified by Corney as a ‘multiple ditch system’ (Corney 1989: 116-118). In the case of Ebsbury the ditch system was perhaps slighted by later use, as a Romano-British settlement grew up further downslope (Crawford & Keiller 1928 : 120). Stockton and Hanging Langford are linked to Grim’s Ditch by linears (Corney 1989: 116) and from OS mapping, there is the beginning of a spur that may have lead down to Hamshill Ditches.

Figure 3: The Landscape around Ebsbury. Source: Smith 1978 Figure 16

Smith’s somewhat artistic interpretation of the earthworks at Ebsbury (Figure 3) gives an idea of the site as a complex and ties in Grovely Castle via a linear. Only detailed survey would prove the accuracy of this interpretation, but it may not be far wrong in spirit. There is certainly evidence for occupation within the wooded area, as areas of nettles indicate phosphates in the soil, generally caused by human activity (Rackham, 2000 :109).


Both Hamshill Ditches and Hanging Langford Camp are associated with banjo enclosures. The banjo at Church End Ring  is considerably larger than the two at Hamshill (D. J. Bonney & C. N. Moore 1967 :120 ) but is not immediately surrounded by additional earthworks as at Hamshill. In this respect, Hamshill resembles the Gussage Hill Complex in Dorset, with two pairs of banjo enclosures and an enclosing loop.

The hillfort known as Bilbury Rings has a linear, possibly of a later date than the hillfort, extending to Hanging Langford Camp from the hillfort (NMR SU 03 NW 10). As Roman material has been found in Bilbury Rings (Bowen 1961: 33) this might be related to the use in the Roman period.


Figure 4: The complex of Iron Age earthworks on Gussage Hill, overlying the line of the Cursus. Source Barrett et. al. 1991 Fig. 6.3

As with the multiple-ditch systems on the Ridge, the Gussage Hill site dates from the Iron Age and into the Romano-British period (Barrett et al. 1991 : 236).  These systems are considered to share characteristics with Oppida: activities are divided into certain areas within the enclosed space (Oswald 2011: 5), rather than being a hierarchical division of people (Davis 2008 :39), but do not exhibit the degree of urbanisation that defines the Oppida in Gaul (Henderson 2007 :264). Corney (1989: 116-120) suggests that these sites represent Durotrigan influence in the region, and Eagles points out that the placename Teffont means the spring by the boundary and has a Latin root, suggesting a boundary dating from that time in the region (Eagles 2004 :236).

Figure 5: Stockton Earthworks, Romano-British Downland Village. Source: Smith 1978 Figure 15

It has been suggested that the area of the Nadder valley may have been a border between Iron Age tribes: the Dobunni and the Durotriges (McOmish et al. 2002 : 3) and possibly the Atrebates (Cunliffe 2005: 222; Corney 1989 :120) and Belgae (Draper 2009: 28). However, Moore (2011) asserts that the concept of a ‘tribe’ may be inappropriate, and therefore the idea of a border between territories is not applicable. This said, an interface between peoples may be one of the reasons for the density and complexity of settlement on the ridge (Corney 1989 :118).

The Roman road, Margary 45b (Musty et al. 1958: 30), cuts through Grovely wood running along the ridge, from the Mendips to Old Sarum and was probably used to transport lead from the mines in the Mendips (Powell 1906 :282). As these mines were in operation from 49AD (Bonney 1972: 179), this suggests an early date for this road.

This road provides relative dating for the other large linear feature on the ridge: Grim’s Ditch. Grim’s Ditch has been filled in to allow the Roman road to cross (Bonney 1972 :180) and for the places where the Roman road is cut by the ditch, Caceres (2003) suggests that the ditch may have been later recut. That is not to say that the entirety of Grim’s Ditch is of one date; Rackham certainly considers that the continuation of Grim’s Ditch by Stockton woods is a later addition as the bank changes side of the ditch (Rackham 1976 : 16).

Figure 6: Grim’s Ditch and associated features. Source: Rackham 1976 Figure 4

This feature is mentioned in Anglo-Saxon boundary charters of the 10th Century (Hooke 1994 : 92) and the name Grim indicates a boundary (Semple 1998 :116) although this was not necessarily its earlier use (Sauer 2005 :59), despite forming manorial boundaries in the medieval period (Eagles 1994 : 25). It has been suggested that Grim’s Ditch may have been the earliest ‘ridgeway’ road across the ridge, and that the Roman road formalised this (Cochrane 1972: 10; Smith 1978: 33; Baggs et al. 1995;) .

From the 5th Century, activity on the ridge declines and Rackham states that the ridge was uninhabited (Rackham 2000 :289). When activity does appear in the historical record, it is of settlement in the valley bottoms, with many of the villages having Saxon origins e.g. Baverstock known as Babbanstoc in 968 (Wilts. SMR SU 03 SW 400). The Domesday listing for Grauelinges is just that the King’s foresters hold 1½ hides there (Thorn 1979: record 67/99). Smith (1978: 1) points out, however, that any early settlement in the valleys would be obscured. Smith (Smith 1978 :45) gives the agricultural strength of the ridge as a reason that Wilton came to such prominance in the early Medieval period, and Lewis postulates that the pattern of settlement on the chalk in the Medieval period may have been determined by Roman times (Lewis 1994 : 188) but perhaps this is more generally true for areas where it can be proved that manors succeed Roman villa sites.

Figure 7: General topography of the woods on the Grovely Ridge. Many small groves and plantations are omitted. Dotted lines show parishes. Source: Rackham 1976 Figure 1

Grovely Wood District was extra-parochial (Rackham 1976 : 3), as shown in Figure 15 above, and the resources of the woodland shared in common. A charter of 994AD gives indirect evidence for the open-field system being in operation by that date as it refers to five hides with no fixed boundary (Hooke 1994 : 92). When Grovely was later declared subject to Forest law, some time after the arrival of the Norman invaders (Richardson 2003: 17), these common rights were still claimed, especially by the men of Great Wishford parish, who had the right to pasture in the Forest (Baggs et al. 1995).

The woodland itself was divided into copses with the practice of subinfeudation allowing tenants to effectively sublet land from the lord (Rackham 2000 :100) . Evidence for coppicing in Grovely exists from 1330-32 (Bond 1994 :129) and the different regimes in each copse are still detectable. Figure 8 shows the copses as they were in 1589, around the time Grovely was disafforested (Bond 1994 :132).

Figure 8: Copses and earthworks in Grovely and Ridgeley. This is an attempted reconstruction of the copse boundaries chiefly from the 1589 Pembroke Map. Source: Rackham 1976 Fig. 6


Although much has been made of the harshness of Forest Law, in reality the Forest Courts were a source of income (Richardson 2003: 22) and the ability of the King to bestow valuable, hereditary (Crittall 1959), posts to manage the Forest was an important social factor (Rackham 2003 :185).

Figure 9: Medieval Forests and Chases. Source: Bond 1994 Fig 6.1

Figure 9 shows the approximate extent of Royal Forests and chases in the Medieval period, and it can be seen that Grovely is a tiny fraction of that Forest land. The designation of Grovely Forest has probably protected the area from agricultural encroachment (Bond 1994 :132) even in desperate times when medieval lynchets appear on steep slopes (Hare 1994: 162).


Baggs, A.P., Freeman, J. & Street, W., 1995. Parishes: Great Wishford. In D. A. Crowley, ed. A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 15: Amesbury hundred, Branch and Dole hundred. pp. 284-294. Available at: [Accessed December 9, 2011].

Barrett, J.C., Bradley, R. & Green, M., 1991. Landscape, monuments, and society: the prehistory of Cranborne Chase, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bond, J., 1994. Forests, Chases, Warrens and Parks in Medieval Wessex. In M. Aston & C. Lewis, eds. The Medieval Landscape of Wessex. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 46, pp. 115-158.

Bonney, D., 1972. Early Boundaries in Wessex. In P. J. Fowler, ed. Archaeology and the Landscape: Essays for L.V.Grinsell. London: John Baker, pp. 168-186.

Bonney, D.J. & Moore, C.N., 1967. Hamshill Ditches, Barford St Martin. Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 62, pp.118-120.

Bowen, H.C., 1961. Excavation and Fieldwork in Wiltshire, 1960: Bilbury Rings and Area. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 58, pp.32-35.

Bradley, R. & Yates, D., 2007. After “Celtic” fields: the social organisation of Iron Age agriculture. In C. Haselgrove & R. Pope, eds. The earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near continent. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 94-102.

Caceres, A.C., 2003. Field Survey Report 8: Grovely Wood, Comp. Nos. 19 & 27. In Grovely Wood, Wilton Estate and S. W. Wiltshire. Archaeology Reports 1995-2003: Report 2003.129.

Cochrane, C., 1972. The Lost Roads of Wessex 2nd ed., London: Pan Books Ltd.

Corney, M., 1989. Multiple ditch systems and Late Iron Age settlement in central Wessex. In M. Bowden, D. Mackay, & P. Topping, eds. From Cornwall to Caithness: Some Aspects of British Field Archaeology. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (British Series 209), pp. 111–28.

Corney, M., 2006. The Regional Pattern morphology and environs. In A. Payne, M. Corney, & B. Cunliffe, eds. The Wessex Hillforts Project: extensive survey of hillfort interiors in central southern England. London: English Heritage, pp. 131-150.

Crawford, O.G.S. & Keiller, A., 1928. Wessex from the Air, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Crittall, E. ed., 1959. Royal forests. In A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. pp. 391-433. Available at: [Accessed December 9, 2011].

Cunliffe, B., 2005. Iron Age Communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales 4th ed., Abingdon: Routledge.

Davis, O., 2008. Twin Freaks? Paired Enclosures in the Early Iron Age of Wessex. In O. Davis, N. Sharples, & K. Waddington, eds. Changing perspectives on the first millennium BC. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 31-42.

Draper, S., 2009. Continuity or Congruity? Debating the origins of Early Medieval territories in Wiltshire. In A. F. Smith, L. Fry, & K. Gardner, eds. The Last of the Britons – Kings, Thugs or Saints? Somerset & adjoining counties 400 –700 AD. Papers from the Symposium held at Taunton Saturday 26 November 2005. CBA – South-West & SANHS, pp. 28-36.

Eagles, B., 2004. Britons and Saxons on the Eastern Boundary of the Civitas Durotrigum. Society, 35(2004), pp.234-240. Available at:

Eagles, B., 1994. The Archaeological Evidence for Settlement in the Fifth to Seventh Centuries AD. In M. Aston & C. Lewis, eds. The Medieval Landscape of Wessex. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 46, pp. 13-46.

Field, D., 2008. The Development of an Agricultural Countryside. In J. Pollard, ed. Prehistoric Britain. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 202-224.

Grinsell, L.V., 1957. Archaeological Gazetteer. In The Victoria County History of Wiltshire Volume 1 Part 1. London: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-279.

Hare, J., 1994. Agriculture and Rural Settlement in the chalklands of Wiltshire and Hampshire from c.1200-c.1500. In M. Aston & C. Lewis, eds. The Medieval Landscape of Wessex. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 46, pp. 159-170.

Hawkes, C., 1959. The ABC of the British Iron Age. Antiquity, 33(131), pp.170–182. Available at: [Accessed February 2, 2012].

Henderson, J.C., 2007. The Atlantic Iron Age: Settlement and Identity in the First Millennium BC, Routledge.

Hooke, D., 1994. The Administrative and Settlement Framework of Early Medieval Wessex. In M. Aston & C. Lewis, eds. The Medieval Landscape of Wessex. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 46, pp. 83-95.


Lewis, C., 1994. Patterns and Processes in the Medieval Settlement of Wiltshire. In M. Aston & C. Lewis, eds. The Medieval Landscape of Wessex. Oxford: Oxbow Monograph 46, pp. 171-193.

McOmish, D. et al., 2002. The Field Archaeology of the Salisbury Plain Training Area First Edit., English Heritage.

Moore, T., 2011. Detribalizing the later prehistoric past: Concepts of tribes in Iron Age and Roman studies. Journal of Social Archaeology, 11(3), pp.334-360. Available at: [Accessed November 13, 2011].

Musty, J.W.G. et al., 1958. The Roman road from Old Sarum to the Mendips : the Grovely Wood-Old Sarum section. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 59, pp.30-33.

Oswald, A., 2011. Introductions to Heritage Assets: Prehistoric Linear Boundary Earthworks, English Heritage. Available at:

Piggott, S., 1931. Ladle Hill-an unfinished hillfort. Antiquity, 5(20), pp.474–485. Available at: [Accessed February 27, 2011].

Powell, J.U., 1906. South Wilts in Romano-British Times. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 34, pp.270-294.

Rackham, O., 2003. Ancient Woodland: its history, vegetation and uses in England New Editio., Dalbeattie, Kirkudbrightshire: Castlepoint Press.

Rackham, O., 2000. The History of the Countryside New Ed., Phoenix.

Rackham, O., 1976. The woods of the Grovely Ridge: notes on their history and ecology, Unpublished manuscript.

Richardson, A., 2003. The forest, park and palace of Clarendon, c.1200-c.1650 : reconstructing an actual, conceptual and documented Wiltshire landscape. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Unversity of Southampton.

Sauer, E.W., 2005. Aves Ditch from the Iron Age to the Early Middle Ages, Oxford: British Archaeological Reports (British Series 402).

Semple, S., 1998. A Fear of the Past: The Place of the Prehistoric Burial Mound in the Ideology of Middle and Later Anglo-Saxon England. World Archaeology, 30(1), pp.109-126.

Serjeantson, D., 2007. Intensification of animal husbandry in the Late Bronze Age. In C. Haselgrove & R. Pope, eds. The earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near continent. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 80-93.

Smith, R.W., 1978. Grovely Great Ridge: a study of the agricultural exploitation of a chalk ridge from c800 BC to AD 500 using comparative models, Unpublished draft.

Thomas, R., 1997. Land, Kinship Relations and the Rise of Enclosed Settlement in First Millennium BC Britain. Oxford journal of archaeology, 16(2), pp.211–218. Available at: [Accessed December 14, 2011].

Thorn, C., Thorn, F. & Morris, J. eds., 1979. Domesday Book Wiltshire, Chichester: Phillimore.

Written on February 14th, 2012 , Sites Tags: , , , , ,

Site Description

The hill on which the causewayed enclosure sits has been a focus of activity during many periods, but it is the causewayed enclosure that will be addressed here, as the other uses of the site perhaps represent re-use of the land, rather than of the site. That is not to deny the possibility that the Bronze Age barrows were placed where they were because the existing monument was there, merely that their purpose is at a distance from the intention of the builders of the causewayed enclosure.

Situated on the South-facing scarp at the Northern edge of the Vale of Pewsey, the hill is connected to the adjacent Golden Ball Hill via a saddle-shaped ridge overlooking a deep coombe. There is then a gap before the land rises again to form Walkers Hill, topped by the Adam’s Grave long barrow, and the start of the Milk Hill-Tan Hill range.

The causewayed enclosure covers an area of 17 hectares (Wiltshire County Council 2011) and consists of a series of (now silted-up) ditches and banks, separated by causeways (undug sections of ditch with a corresponding gap in the bank). It seems that Knap Hill is unusual in the way that this circuit follows the contours of the hill, whereas other causewayed enclosures pay scant regard to the topology and their ditch-and-bank sections fall across contours (Smith 1971, 111). Another unusual feature is that the line of ditches and banks does not complete a full circuit of the hill, there being a gap on the side that faces South East into the Vale. This side of the hill faces down into a steep coombe which may offer an explanation for the lack of earthworks on this side. Combe Hill Camp near Eastbourne also seems to show a gap in the circuit where it encounters the coombe edge, but also has a secondary (and incomplete) circuit (Curwen 1930, 14), implying that the completion of the circuit was not necessarily required.


Knap Hill

Knap Hill from Milk Hill Copyright K Bragg 2011

This photo was taken from the footpath ascending Milk Hill, facing South-East. The row of banks that encircle the top section of the hill can be clearly seen, as can a modern trackway steeply ascending the hill between two banks.

From the footpath to Golden Ball Hill (the transverse track visible in the photo above), the banks of the causewayed enclosure can clearly be seen, but the top of the hill is not visible (see photo below).


Knap Hill

Knap Hill from Footpath Copyright K Bragg 2011

Whatever was going on, on the top of the hill, would only be visible to those within the circuit, or at a considerable distance away. Again, this might explain the lack of earthworks on the side facing the coombe, as this effectively provides the same visual shielding of the hill.

Adam’s Grave was investigated in 1868 by Dr Thurnam, yielding human remains from several individuals and a leaf-shaped arrowhead (Knowles 2007, 3), but the dating is unclear. Bradley and Edmonds suggest that the two monuments may have been in use at the same time (Bradley & Edmonds 2005, 176). The close association between the monuments may be an indication that the use of Knap Hill was altered and the introduction of the barrow may be how that change was effected as it has been suggested that one of the uses for causewayed enclosures may be connected with the rites required to deal with the dead (Thomas 1999, 43).

Landscape Location

Knap Hill is on the Middle Chalk (Crowley 1980, 187) overlooking the Vale of Pewsey with its Upper Greensand and Gault Clay geology (Geddes 2000). This situation on an ecotone may be a clue to at least part of the use of the site: it is on the edge between one type of land (the Vale with its heavier soils) and another (the chalk downland) and may reflect an involvement with the seasonal movement of cattle to the higher ground (Thomas 1999, 43).

Evidence from Golden Ball Hill suggests a Mesolithic use of the area for flint acquisition (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 23). Bradley suggests that the location of flint mines may have been selected due to their landscape situation, and that intervisibility of flint mines from causewayed enclosures may be of symbolic importance (Bradley 2005, 103). A more practical explanation may be that the use of Golden Ball Hill led to a tradition of gathering in that area (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 55), naturally progressing into a formalisation of that gathering with a monument and creating a known Place within the landscape (Thomas 1998, 89).

Environmental evidence from Knap Hill indicates that the area was open scrubland at the time the monument was constructed, but with increasing thickness of scrub as the ditches filled (Connah 1965,3), possibly indicating the decline of use of the hill. In contrast, Windmill Hill, several miles further North of Knap Hill, produced environmental evidence suggesting that the landscape was heavily wooded (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 55). The idea that the earliest monuments of the Neolithic represented a taking control over nature and making space for man-made works may not therefore apply consistently to these monuments (Austin 2000, 73).

Investigation History

Maud and Ben Cunnington were the first to excavate the causewayed enclosure and to determine that it was a type of site previously unrecognised (Cunnington 1909). Their excavations, conducted in 1909-10 are shown on the plan below, and take in an area of the later plateau settlement as well as the ditch and bank arrangement. (Cunnington 1911)


Plan of Maud Cunnington's excavations at Knap Hill

Knap Hill Camp (after Cunnington 1911, 44)

Her report also indicates that she tested each causeway to prove the ditches terminated, although this is not indicated on the plan. She established from this that the causeways were an intentional part of the design. She came to the conclusion that the arrangement was not intended for defence as the causeways would weaken the perimeter whilst not affording any benefit to the defenders. She also noted, however, that the slight offsetting of the bank from the causeway, gave limited visibility into the interior from the outside.

Although there is no clear indication which of the ‘relics’ was found in which ditch, the report is clear that the objects were found in groups, the implication being that they were deposits rather than accidental losses. Interestingly, she states that most of the artefacts came from a layer 30cm above the ditch bottom (Cunnington 1911, 61), perhaps implying that the deposits were not the primary intention. Some of the worked flint found in the ditch appears fresh and perhaps was worked in-situ on the floor of the ditch (Cunnington 1911, 62), but it is not evident how this can be determined, as the recording is not comprehensive. Other important evidence from the ditches includes pottery now identified as being of the Windmill Hill type, bone identified as being that of a domestic (rather than wild) ox, and remains of pigs (Cunnington 1911, 61), implying consumption of animals.

Plan of the causewayed camp on Knap Hill

Plan of the causewayed camp on Knap Hill (after Connah 1965, 2)

It was Graham Connah’s excavations, in 1961 that provided radiocarbon dates for the construction of the ditches: antler fragments from layer 6 in Cutting i gave a date of 4710 +- 115 BP or 2760BC (Connah 1969). However, a more recent paper, using Bayesian analysis, gives the rough date of construction of Knap Hill as 3530-3375 cal. BC (91% probability) (Bayliss et al. 2008) which is much earlier.

Richard Bradley traces the tradition of interrupted ditch and bank systems back as far as the Linearbandkeramik culture of Europe (Bradley 2007, 71) and perhaps the idea of such constructions was a connection to the old homelands of the first farmers. But causewayed enclosures weren’t necessarily the first monuments to be built by the early farmers (Whittle 2003, 151) and were perhaps the product of the maturing Neolithic lifestyle (Evans 1988, 93).
In cutting i, Connah also found evidence that perhaps the ditch started life as a series of pits (Connah 1965, 5). Given that deposits in causewayed enclosures tend to be in the ditch terminals (Evans 1988, 89), perhaps deposits were originally made in pits, and then these pits joined up to make a continuous ditch.

Connah exercises caution owing to uncertainty in the stratigraphy, but is willing to confirm the presence of ox in a safe Neolithic context. Sheep, goat and pig are slightly more doubtful and may not be adding to the Neolithic picture, but may be later (Connah 1965, 17).

In general, Connah considers the lack of finds from Knap Hill to be an indication of a short period of use (Connah 1965, 21), although perhaps the usage did not leave material evidence to be found.


Causewayed enclosures, while superficially affording an easy classification into a type of site, seem to have had multiple uses, which may have varied over time. Whilst there is clearly a common idea of ditches separated by causeways and accompanied by banks, it is by no means clear that the space within the enclosure, or the world outside, meant the same thing at each site.

Knap Hill has its own peculiarities that require explanation: the ‘missing’ section of the circuit; the proximity of Rybury; the relationship with Adam’s Grave long barrow; the limited period of use. More work will be required to determine the answers to these questions.

Given that the feeling seems to be that Knap Hill went out of use fairly quickly, and that Rybury is nearby and roughly contemporary (Pollard & Reynolds 2002, 55) it is plausible that perhaps Knap Hill turned out to be unsuitable (it is fairly exposed and inhospitable owing to its landscape position) and that affairs were then conducted at Rybury, which is far more sheltered. As this may have been a rapid change, the lack of resolution available in current dating evidence is unlikely to answer this.

Overall, the lack of finds at Knap Hill do not allow us to say much about the use of the enclosure; there is evidence for animal bone, human remains, pottery and flints but on the basis of this evidence alone, it is difficult to get an idea of the meaning of the place. What we can say only is that people in the Neolithic chose Knap Hill as a special place.


Austin, P., 2000. The Emperor’s new garden: Woodland, trees, and people in the Neolithic of Southern Britain. In A. S. Fairbairn, ed. Plants in Neolithic Britain and beyond. Oxford: Oxbow Books, pp. 63-78.
Bayliss, A., Healy, F. & Whittle, A., 2008. The Timing and Tempo of Change: Examples from the Fourth Millennium cal. BC in Southern England. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 18(01), pp.65-70. Available at: [Accessed December 27, 2010].
Bradley, R., 2005. Ritual and Domestic Life in Prehistoric Europe New editio., Routledge.
Bradley, R., 2007. The Prehistory of Britain and Ireland 1st ed., Cambridge University Press.
Bradley, R. & Edmonds, M., 2005. Interpreting the Axe Trade: Production and Exchange in Neolithic Britain 1st ed., Cambridge University Press.
Connah, G., 1965. Excavations at Knap Hill, Alton Priors, 1961. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 60(1), pp.1-23.
Connah, G., 1969. Radiocarbon dating for Knap Hill. Antiquity, 43(172), pp.304-305. Available at:
Crowley, D.A., 1980. A History of Wiltshire: Volume XI: Downton Hundred, Elstub and Everleigh Hundred, Victoria County History.
Cunnington, M., 1909. 28. On a Remarkable Feature in the Entrenchments of Knap Hill Camp, Wiltshire. Man, 9(1909), p.49–52. Available at: [Accessed January 11, 2011].
Cunnington, M., 1911. Knap Hill Camp. The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, 37(1), pp.42-65.
Curwen, E.C., 1930. Neolithic camps. Antiquity, 4(13), pp.22-54. Available at: [Accessed January 11, 2011].
Evans, C., 1988. Acts of enclosure: a consideration of concentrically-organised causewayed enclosures. In J. C. Barrett & I. A. Kinnes, eds. The Archaeology of Context in the Neolithic and Bronze Age: Recent Trends. Sheffield: J R Collis, pp. 85-96.
Geddes, I., 2000. Hidden Depths: Wiltshire’s Geology & Landscapes, Bradford on Avon, UK: Ex Libris Press.
Knowles, V., 2007. A History of Stanton St Bernard, Hobnob Press.
Pollard, J. & Reynolds, A., 2002. Avebury: Biography of a Landscape illustrate., The History Press Ltd.
Smith, I.F., 1971. Causewayed Enclosures. In D. D. A. Simpson, ed. Economy and settlement in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain and Europe. Leicester University Press, pp. 89-112.
Thomas, J., 1998. Time, Culture and Identity: An Interpretative Archaeology 1st ed., Routledge.
Thomas, J., 1999. Understanding the Neolithic 2nd ed., Routledge.
Whittle, A., 2003. The Archaeology of People: Dimensions of Neolithic Life 1st ed., Routledge.
Wiltshire County Council, Knap Hill Causewayed Enclosure. Wiltshire and Swindon Sites and Monument Record Information. Available at: [Accessed February 16, 2011].

Written on May 28th, 2011 , Sites

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