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3 June 2007
Hillfort heritage revealed by a new book

'Hillforts - Prehistoric strongholds of Northumberland National Park ' is a new book launched on the 15th of May 2007 by English Heritage; it is an eye-opening new investigation of hillforts, the iconic prehistoric monuments that form an integral part of Northumberland National Park. The book presents key discoveries from nearly a decade of research, conservation, and interpretation focussing on the well-preserved Northumberland's Iron Age hillforts.
     The meaning and purpose of these enigmatic monuments, dating to around 300 BCE, have intrigued people for centuries, most concluding that they served as fortified settlements. However, the new research reveals that many hillforts were built by farming families to show off to neighbouring communities; the defences of many hillforts were remodelled by every generation, ensuring they remained smart and 'fashionable'; Iron Age ‘territories’ can still be identified in the landscape by tracing the extent of the land farmed by each community, and people returned to the long-abandoned ruins of hillforts in the Roman period and built new settlements as an act of homage to their distant ancestors. 
     Professor Barry Cunliffe, Commissioner for English Heritage and Professor of European Prehistory in the University of Oxford, said:  "This project has undoubtedly improved our understanding of the National Park’s precious heritage. I hope that this new English Heritage book will support the efforts of the National park Authority, that it will be a highly informative and accessible guide for those who cherish this unique landscape."
       Northumberland National Park has escaped the worst ravages of modern development and agriculture, so that all kinds of ancient remains are visible as unremarkable humps and bumps on the surface. With the Countryside Rights of Way Act making the uplands of the National Park now accessible to walkers, this new guide allows even the untrained eye to discover and analyse the traces of prehistoric, and later, activity throughout the park.
     Stewart Ainsworth, co-author of the book, said "This book is not particularly about excavation or scientific analysis – it is about normal people using their eyes and their brains to identify and analyse traces of past activity that are visible to us all. We don't pretend that we have all the answers in this book but we want to encourage everyone to discover this beautiful landscape and do some detective work for themselves."

Source: English Heritage (17 May 2007)

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