One of the largest and most complex Iron Age hill forts in Europe – the size of 50 football pitches. Its huge multiple ramparts, mostly built in the 1st century BC, once protected hundreds of residents. When it was first built, the gleaming white chalk ramparts would have towered over the surrounding landscape.

Around 450 BC it was greatly expanded and the enclosed area nearly tripled in size to 47 acres, making it the largest hill fort in Britain. The massive banks of Maiden Castle stretch across a saddle-backed hilltop 914 meters long. Although the hill fort has earlier origins, most of the ramparts now visible were built in the 1st century BC / Image: Ray Beer / Image source

Excavations have revealed much about Maiden Castle’s history, such as a Neolithic enclosure from about 3500 BC and a Roman temple built in the 4th century AD. The archaeologists also found evidence of a late Iron Age cemetery, where many of those buried had suffered horrific injuries.

The earliest archaeological evidence of human activity on the site consists of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure and bank barrow. In about 1800 BC, during the Bronze Age, the site was used for growing crops before being abandoned.

The first widespread investigation of hill forts was carried out in the second half of the 19th century under the direction of Augustus Pitt-Rivers, but it was not until the 1930s that Maiden Castle was methodically investigated, the first large-scale excavation of the interior of a hill fort.

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