Dorstone Hill: An Early Neolithic Hilltop Complex in South-West Herefordshire

Julian Thomas, Keith Ray

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Abstract

Archaeological investigations at Dorstone Hill, near the northern end of Herefordshire’s Golden Valley, were conducted between 2011 and 2019 within a long-term prehistoric research study, the ‘Beneath Hay Bluff’ prehistory project. This is a partnership between the University of Manchester’s Department of Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology, and Egyptology and Herefordshire Archaeology, the county archaeology service at Herefordshire Council. The remains of three rectangular timbered longhouses (or ‘halls’), dating from the (very) early 4th millenium BCE, represented the earliest activity on the site. These buildings had been built end-to-end in a line, which was interrupted, between the central and eastern halls, by a linear burial chamber on the same alignment. Following the dismantling of the burial chamber and the deliberate destruction of the halls by fire, mortuary-associated earthen and stone long mounds were raised over the footprint of each of the early structures. To the south of these mounds, a single circuit of segmented ditches, forming a causewayed enclosure, was discovered by geophysical survey on the summit of the hill, and was then extensively excavated. These repeatedly recut ditch segments contained bones of domesticated animals, worked flints, and stone items, and also potsherds from early vessels. Radiocarbon dates indicate that it is among the earliest such enclosure sites so far identified in western Britain. Nonetheless, Dorstone Hill is, for the authors, most remarkable for the extremely rare survival of traces of the timber superstructures of the early hall buildings and for the glimpses it has also provided of a consciousness of corporate history among the communities concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-63
Number of pages19
JournalWoolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Herefordshire. Transactions
Volume70
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

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