The term "causewayed enclosure" is now preferred to the older term causewayed camp as it has been demonstrated that the sites did not necessarily serve as occupation sites.
Windmill Hill, Ditch
Causewayed enclosures are often located on hilltop sites, encircled by one to four concentric ditches with an internal bank.[Henges on the other hand have the circular bank with an internal ditch] In general enclosures located in lowland areas are larger than hilltop ones. Crossing the ditches at intervals are causeways which give the monuments their names. It appears that the ditches were excavated in sections, leaving the wide causeways intact in between. They should not be confused with segmented, or causewayed ring ditches, which are smaller and are thought to relate only to funerary activity, or with hillforts, which appeared later and had a definite defensive function. With regard to defensive functionality, however, evidence of timber palisades has been found at some sites such as Hambledon Hill.
FunctionArchaeological evidence implies that the enclosures were visited occasionally by Neolithic groups rather than being permanently occupied. It is possible that they represent a transitional period in the Neolithic before hunter-gatherer societies finally became fully settled. The presence of human remains in the banks and ditches of the enclosures has been seen as an attempt by the builders to connect their ancestors with the land and thus begin to anchor themselves to specific areas. Longitudinal sections excavated along the ditches by archaeologists suggest that the builders repeatedly redug the ditches and each time deliberately deposited pottery and human and animal bones, apparently as a regular ritual. Environmental archaeology suggests that the European landscape was in general heavily forested when the enclosures were built and that they were rare clearings in the woodland that were used for various social and economic activities.
In the 1970s the archaeologist Peter Drewett suggested seven possible functions for the sites:
- Cattle compounds or kraals
- Trade centres
- Communal meeting places for feasting and other social activities
- Cult/ritual centres
- Burial sites
Animal remains (especially cattle bone), domestic waste and pottery have been found at the sites. But there has been limited evidence of any structures. In some locations, such as Windmill Hill, evidence of human occupation predates the enclosure. Generally, it appears that the ditches were permitted to silt up, even while the camps were in use, and then re-excavated episodically. It is unlikely that they had a strong defensive purpose. The earthworks may have been designed to keep out wild animals rather than people. The sequential addition of second, third and fourth circuits of banks and ditches may have come about through growing populations adding to the significance of their peoples' monument over time. In some cases, they appear to have evolved into more permanent settlements.
Most causewayed enclosures have been ploughed away in the intervening millennia and are recognized through aerial archaeology. The first were constructed in the fifth millennium BC and by the early third millennium BC; notable regional variations occur in their construction. French examples begin to demonstrate elaborate horn-shaped entrances which are interpreted as being designed to impress from afar rather than serve any practical purpose.
Aubrey Burl considers that building of causewayed enclosures decayed by 3000 BC and was replaced by more localised types of earthen work monuments. In Britain, such replacements include Stonehenge I, Flagstones, Duggleby Howe and Ring of Bookan, and the later henge monuments.
ExamplesExamples of causewayed enclosures include:
- Whitehawk Camp
- Robin Hood's Ball near Stonehenge
- Hambledon Hill
- Windmill Hill near Avebury henge
- Coombe Hill.
- Rams Hill (on the Berkshire Downs)
- Crickley Hill near Cheltenham
- Some tor enclosures such as that at Carn Brea are believed to have served a similar purpose in south western Britain.
[This last part is pure supposition only, and there is the alternative suggestion is that their original function was protective but that function quickly gave way to a more ritual and symbolic function. It has also been suggested that the structures were made in imitation of older, more obviously defensive earthworks that were settlements made outside of Britain and carried over by the first farmers but in a pretty much only rudimentary form. That there is some sort of relationship between the causewayed enclosures and the later hillforts has traditionally been assumed although it is true that there is a gap of several centuries in between. Several theorists have noticed the resemblance of some of the enclosures to Plato's description of the capital city of Atlantis and a few have even said this is evidence that Atlantis was Britain: yet only the design is similar, the british examples are not permanent settlements and they do not have metal-jacketed walls. Since they do have a ceremonial function and are connected to the ideas of cultural begionnings and cultural unity, it makes more sense to say that they are made in rememberance of Atlantis. Besides the same basic idea of circular-cities occurs outside of Britain, and over a wide area.-DD][A more involved analysis of Causewayed enclosures from an online encyclopedia follows]
This then help us think through Bradley’s arguments in terms of memory and emotion. The Trio truly believe that they would be happier if only they lived together (Riviere 2000, 252). Links with the continent are also shown in the jadeite axes found at the Hambledon Hill and High Peak enclosures (Edmonds 1999, 124). The enclosures of the British Neolithic might thus have drawn on memories and origin myths of a distant past where communities lived in an idealised, united form.