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South Barrule Hillfort

Period: Bronze Age - Iron Age

NGR Easting: 225800

NGR Northing: 475900

Description: Bronze Age - Iron Age hillfort. The highest summit in the south of the Island is crowned by a hillfort consisting of a pair of roughly concentric earthworks, 20-30m apart. They are least impressive on the western side of the hill where the steep slope and rock outcrops provide a measure of natural defensibility.

Excavations have shown that the inner rampart was an earth and turf bank faced on the exterior by a wall with a shallow ditch outside. A series of postholes set at irregular angles in front of the ditch may have contained sharpened timber stakes inclined outwards forming a defensive work known as a ‘chevaux de frise’.

The inner rampart encloses an oval space a maximum of 130m across. Within it are the remains of more than 70 roundhouses. It is not clear if all were contemporary. Some share walls with their neighbours, suggesting the grouping together of the dwellings, stores, workshops and animal houses of family or kin.

Excavation of three roundhouses showed that the walls were constructed from turf and stone. Doorways faced east, the sunken floors were roughly paved using local slate, and central hearths provided a radiocarbon date of around 500 BC. Pottery from the roundhouses has also been dated to the late Bronze Age/early Iron Age. All of the buildings appear to respect the rampart, implying that this was built first.

The outer rampart is the more substantial and obvious of the two because of its exposed stonework. The excavator suggested that the inner rampart was partially dismantled to provide material. The outer rampart was revetted on the inside by a turf bank, and on the outside by an almost vertical stone wall. Today the wall stands to a height of almost 2m, but the amount of fallen material suggests that it would originally have been significantly higher.

Recent survey and geophysical prospecting suggests that the most likely entrance through the outer defences lay on the western side, where two lengths of the rampart overlap, creating a defensible passageway.

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Site & Monument Type: Hillfort

Category: National Monuments Record: Statutory Ancient Monuments

Site ID number: 0116.00