Two solid years of work on understanding how hillfort gates worked! Here’s a 🧵 on the new paper by me, @rgsm84 @DrDerekHamilton Dr Eddie Rule & @johnswogger. Funded by @LivUni, @Go_CheshireWest, @HistoricEngland. What did these ‘lost’ iron objects tell us about the Iron Age? 1/
In 1936-37, the iron objects were excavated by Bill Varley of @LivUni (who also excavated @OldOswestryFort). One of the iron mechanisms remained attached to its oak, entrance gate-post - that was still standing 3’ tall! Thought lost in WWII, @rgsm84 tracked the objects down 🕵️‍♂️
The objects were in a fragile state - so we had them conserved, with the help of @HistoricEngland & Ian Panter (YAT). We analysed them 🔬(for wood type, metal composition), illustrated them, undertook re-fitting, worked out their ‘types’, and how they functioned as mechanisms.
Then we tracked down parallels. What we found, is that whilst the majority of excavated gate-mechanisms are Roman, the technology is an *Iron Age invention* - and designed for a much more *complex* engineering task at 400 BC than it was used for in the Roman period 💥
The earliest example of the gate-mechanism technology is that from Eddisbury (Cheshire). Its closest parallels were from the wonderful hillforts of Hembury (Devon) & South Cadbury (Somerset) - as excavated by Dorothy Liddell (1930-35) and Leslie Alcock (1970).
You can find out more about pioneering archaeologist Dorothy Liddell from @Trowelblazers (❤️) here: and there’s a fascinating photo archive of the 1930-35 Hembury excavations here: 
To help us date the gate-mechanism technology, we first had to re-phase the excavated entrance sequences - by reanalysing the stratigraphy, in association with the architectural layout, over time. This also allowed us to provide new hillfort sequences for Eddisbury and Hembury.
Another strand was bringing in @DrDerekHamilton, and his Bayesian modelling skills, on Eddusbury’s new radiocarbon dates. Via this process, we’ve C-14 dated (for the first time) the phenomenon of ‘Developed Hillforts’ (when some triple in size) to 400 BC. Confirming Cunliffe 👍🏽
By using the device of the archaeological matrix, we were able to resolve outstanding issues with the mid-late Cadbury sequence - which has traditionally seen problems around event conflation. And we’ve more securely dated the ‘massacre deposit’ to a Conquest period event.
By working with the parallels, we’ve built the first typology of prehistoric gate-mechanisms (3rdC BC-Roman) - showing how the Middle Iron Age engineering task around manoeuvring big oak gates was far greater 💪🏼 than the later (LIA-Roman) technology around using of ash gates.
This is the best bit! We also decided to visually reconstruct South Cadbury hillfort’s Late Iron Age SW gate - finally resolving its excavated gate-fittings. This took a lot of working out. As illustrated here by the ever-fabulous @johnswogger. Really brings the hillfort to life!
And finally - what did we learn about the Iron Age? That Middle Iron Age ‘massive’ architecture was about animals & community. The architecture was becoming more ‘defensive’ by the 2ndC BC, and that communal social forms broke down in the 1stC BC - i.e. trouble *before* AD 43.
We learned lots more besides, so if you’d like to find out more - read the paper! It’s #OpenAccess so it’s yours now 🎁 You can also find out more about the @LivUni excavations at Eddisbury hillfort, and @rgsm84’s work on the Varley archive, in this book (pending our monograph):
You can follow @preshitorian.
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