Maiden Castle

Nearest town: Dorchester
Nearest village: Winterborne Monkton
Map reference: SY 670885

Maiden Castle ImageThe complex arrangement of banks and ditches built to confuse invaders was not effective against Romans in AD 43

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This is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts of England. Its ramparts enclose an area of 18 hectares (45 acres), and it is 2.5km (1.5mi) around the inner circumference.
    The early construction of Maiden Castle took place around 3000 BC. In the late Neolithic period a massive long barrow, over 545m (1788ft) in length, was constructed. About 450 BC the hillfort was extended westwards and by the third century BC ramparts and ditches were enlarged, with two complex entrances at the east and at the west of the hill.
    In the Iron Age, between 350 and 70 BC, Maiden Castle became a flourishing town; massive triple and double ramparts were constructed as well as complex entrances. In AD 43 the second Roman Legion, commanded by Vespasian, attacked the eastern gateway and succeeded in subjugating the population. In Dorchester Museum you can see the spine of one of the defenders with a Roman iron arrowhead embedded in the bones. By AD 70 the survivors of the massacre had moved down into the new Roman town of Durnovaria, now Dorchester, and Maiden Castle was deserted.
    One final development in the hillfort was the building of a small Romano-Celtic temple 12m (40ft) square, in the late fourth century AD. Its foundations are still visible in the north-east sector of the fort.
    Human remains suggesting a macabre ritual murder were found at the east end of this mound: a man about thirty years old and 1.6m (5ft 4in) in height had been hacked to death and dismembered before being buried in the mound. This murder has been dated to about AD 635, in Saxon times.

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