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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities

Iron Age Hillfort Defences and the Tactics of Sling Warfare Seminar

26 January 2017
John Wymer Lab Building 65a Faculty of Humanities Avenue Campus

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Ing-Marie Back Danielsson at .

Event details

This seminar is part of the Archaeology Seminar Series

The name ‘hillfort’ implies a military purpose, but in recent decades other interpretations of these monuments have gained favour, based on analyses suggesting that hillforts are poorly suited to military purposes and on views of Iron Age society that emphasise the importance of boundaries, symbolic display and community-building.

This talk reports an investigation of these issues. A summary of the features of hillfort enclosing works and their development in the Middle Iron Age is followed by an introduction to the ancient use of slings as weapons, as large caches of stones suggest that sling warfare was a likely defensive strategy at hillforts. Previous work on this topic includes little tactical analysis with the exceptions of that by Finney and by Avery, whose hypothesis is tested in the experimental part of the study.

Sling accuracy was measured at a hillfort for the first time, in a controlled experiment comparing attack and defence across single and developed ramparts. Tactical scenarios modelled from the results showed that hillfort development increased defenders’ advantage, supporting defence as the explanation for the features of the enclosing works of hillforts. The experimental method and analyses are summarised.

Discussion will be welcome on the nature and function of hillforts, the design of archaeological experiments, problems of deducing function and purpose from archaeological observations or on any other topic prompted by the talk.

Students are especially invited and welcome to attend.

Speaker information

Pete Robertson , Archaeology. Independent Researcher

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