|10 July 1999
Excavations reveal Taplow prehistoric fort
Archaeological excavations carried out at Taplow Court (England) by the Oxford Archaeological Unit ahead of a building to be constructed on the site have uncovered the defences of a lost prehistoric hillfort.
More than 60m of two phases of defensive ditch has been revealed, each backed by the postholes of substantial and sophisticated timber ramparts. One phase of the rampart was burnt and some of the charred timbers are preserved, a rare and very significant discovery. One of the entrances to the fort has also been found, and behind the line of the ramparts are clusters of post holes from the timber houses of the fort's inhabitants.
The larger ditch is 8-9m wide, with near vertical sides and a flat bottom nearly 3m deep. Only part of one side of the hillfort entrance lies within the excavation, so evidence for the massive gates or guard chambers sometimes found is limited. These entrances, however, were often marked by ritual burials in the ditch terminals, and at Taplow the crouched burial of a man was found in a shallow grave just beyond the terminal of the larger vertical-sided ditch.
No scientific dating has yet been carried out, but ramparts with jointed timber-reinforcing like that at Taplow usually date from the Early Iron Age (between 800 and 400 BC). The earlier (smaller) ditch, and the palisades, could even date to the Late Bronze Age (1000-800 BC), the date of the first hillforts to be constructed.
The later ditch appears to have remained open in the Roman and Saxon period, and the siting of the famous Taplow Burial Mound may have been influenced by the presence of the ancient fort.
For further information please contact Robert Samuels on (+44) 01628 591215.
Source: SGI-UK (16 June 99)
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