The Danebury Excavations Digital Archive

The Danebury Trust, 2003

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The Danebury Trust (2003) The Danebury Excavations Digital Archive [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


danebury21.jpg © The Danebury Trust

Danebury Hillfort, Nether Wallop, Hampshire, England (SU 323377) was excavated between the years of 1968 and 1989 by Professor Barry Cunliffe of the University of Oxford. Approximately 3 ha (57%) of the 5 ha enclosed within the ramparts was excavated revealing a very dense distribution of features. These were mainly pits (c. 2,300 excavated), postholes (c. 10,000), circular house structures (c. 73) and rectangular subsidiary structures (c. 500). An equally impressive assemblage of material culture was excavated including 158,000 sherds of pottery and 241,500 animal bones. The size of this dataset necessitated the use of computers and the Danebury Project was one of the first large-scale excavations to attempt computerisation in the early 1980s.

The Danebury excavations have been fully published in a series of reports (Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 4 and Volume 5 are available online) and the Museum of the Iron Age at Andover, Hampshire, is based on the excavations.

There was evidence of pre-hillfort activity on the hilltop in the early first millennium BC with the digging of pits and the deposition of burials. In the 6th century BC the first rampart and ditch were constructed around the hilltop with two opposing entrances on the south-east and west. It seems likely that a road ran between the entrances with zones of activities in the interior represented by clusters of pits and rectangular post-built structures. The south-eastern entrance was excavated and showed a complex series of phases and alterations of the gateway structures. By the late 4th century BC it consisted of a long tunnel entrance with a hornwork and several outwork features, the ramparts had also been substantially enhanced around the whole of the enclosed area and the western gate had been blocked. At around 100 BC the eastern entrance was burnt down and there is some evidence of fighting with the site being abandoned at this time. It may have continued in use as an animal corral for a while.

danebury30.jpg © The Danebury Trust

The intensity of occupation and the associated deposition of artefacts generally increased through the 500 years of occupation of the hillfort. The phasing and dating of the structures and deposits was a major challenge for the interpretation of Danebury and this was based mainly on the pottery typology together with a sequence of over 70 radiocarbon dates. A series of ceramic phases (cps) were established which were then assigned to every pit, posthole, gully and other feature by their contained ceramic material. Phase plans of approximately contemporary features could then be drawn and the changing uses of space within the enclosure studied with the distributions and quantities of artefact categories.

Danebury exists within a very rich archaeological landscape of contemporary linear ditches, field systems, farmstead enclosures and trackways. Since the Danebury excavations the Danebury Environs Project has been systematically investigating different aspects of the surrounding landscape much of which is known through aerial photography. A series of sites have been excavated, and many published, including another hillfort, farmsteads and linear ditches and the chronological interest has been extended to include Romano-British farmsteads and villas.

The dataset comprises the most important of the original Danebury excavation computerised files. These have been reformatted from ASCII files archived on the Oxford University Vax Mainframe computer into Microsoft Access. The original files were very heavily coded and the codes have been interpreted through a combination of direct translation and look-up tables. Where appropriate reference is made to information in the online versions of the reports held by the Council for British Archaeology. The files are:

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