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causewayed enclosure


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One of the main kinds of Neolithic enclosure found in southern and eastern Britain, closely related to a range of other forms of ditched enclosures in northwest Europe. The synonymous terms causewayed camp/causewayed enclosure were first used in the 1930s, since when they have found widespread acceptance in the archaeological literature. The characteristic feature of a causewayed enclosure is the presence of frequent breaks or causeways in the boundary ditch. Some of these are entrance gaps, but most are simply narrow blocks of unexcavated natural bedrock formed because the boundaries were dug as a series of pits rather than a continuous ditch. Dating mainly to the 4th millennium bc, causewayed enclosures range in size from about 1 ha through to over 10 ha. A number of different designs have been recognized on the basis of the boundary arrangements including single, double, and multiple concentric circuits of ditches; and spiral ditches. They occur in many different situations in the landscape including river valleys and hilltops. About 70 examples had been discovered up until the end of the 20th century ad, the majority through aerial photography.

The ditch fills show evidence of recutting and many had a long life spanning more than 1000 years. The fills also contain what appear to be deliberately placed deposits of pottery, animal remains, and human bone. There is much debate about the function of causewayed enclosures, although it is now widely recognized that despite a common technique of construction they were not all built for the same purpose. Some appear to have been defended settlements while others appear to be ceremonial sites, perhaps associated with periodic fairs or gatherings.

Subjects: Archaeology.


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