Castle Hill and its Landscape; Archaeological Excavations at the Wittenhams, Oxfordshire. Oxford

Tim Allen, Kate Cramp, Hugo Lamdin-Whymark, Leo Webley

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This volume describes the results of archaeological investigations carried out between 2003 and 2006 on behalf of the Northmoor Trust in the parishes of Little Wittenham and Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire. The work included examination of cropmarks, large-scale geophysical surveys, fieldwalking and excavations. Geophysical survey was concentrated in and around the scheduled hillfort at Castle Hill, Little Wittenham (Oxfordshire SAM No. 208), and revealed a smaller enclosure within the hillfort dated by excavation to the late Bronze Age.The survey also suggested that otherwise archaeological features within the hillfort were relatively sparse. A section across the hillfort ditch and rampart did not produce a clear construction date, though in the interior both early and middle Iron Age pits were found, some containing human burials or bones. The hillfort ditch appears to have been cleaned out throughout the Iron Age, the spoil probably used to enhance the outer bank. The hillfort was also used in the late Roman period (4th century AD), when very large rectangular pits were dug, and midden material was piled up behind and over the Iron Age rampart. People were also buried in the interior at this time. Saxon finds were very few, but a medieval pit and a quarry indicate occupation in the 12th/13th centuries AD. Coring of peat deposits beside the Thames north of Castle Hill provided evidence of the environmental succession from the early Iron Age onwards. On the plateau below the hillfort cropmarks and geophysical survey revealed a dense settlement stretching west, to Hill Farm and beyond. This included a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age midden some 50 m across, a middle Iron Age curving boundary ditch down the middle with smaller sub-rectangular enclosures either side, and early and middle Iron Age penannular enclosures, four-post structures and pits. Settlement seems to have shifted southwards and westwards in the middle Iron Age, and late Iron Age or early Roman ditches were also found near to Hill Farm. The Roman settlement was mainly 2nd–3rd century AD, and probably consisted of four enclosures, one of which contained a masonry building (now largely destroyed) with a tiled roof, decorated with mosaic tesserae and painted wall plaster. This enclosure was approached by a ditched trackway, with a second larger enclosure alongside. A third enclosure was partly revealed north of Hill Farm, and a fourth enclosure (not investigated) lay alongside Roman field boundaries west of Hill Farm. Despite earlier finds at Hill Farm, no Saxon evidence was found in these excavations. The project has revealed a unique combination of late Bronze Age hilltop enclosure, external settlement and an adjacent midden. In the early Iron Age the hilltop enclosure was replaced by the hillfort, where feasting occurred, while the adjacent settlement around the midden grew to be one of the largest in the region.The midden was abandoned in the middle Iron Age, and a long boundary ditch may have divided this ancestral area off from settlement to the south and west. There was also more middle Iron Age activity within the hillfort, including a number of human burials. In the Roman period the settlement probably included a small villa, while the hillfort itself was probably reoccupied in the later 4th century AD. Intriguingly both Roman cremations and inhumations were buried around and within the hillfort, suggesting a continuity of burial location spanning 1000 years. Geophysical survey and evaluation trenches were also dug across a cropmark complex at Neptune Wood east of Long Wittenham, revealing an early Iron Age enclosure ditch, a Roman trackway and associated fields, and a pair of large middle Saxon pits or waterholes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford Archaeology
Number of pages286
VolumeOxford Archaeology Mongraph 9
ISBN (Print)9780904220612
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


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