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Redating Rams Hill and reconsidering Bronze Age enclosure

  • Stuart Needham (a1) and Janet Ambers (a1)

A new set of radiocarbon measurements for the three phases of Bronze Age enclosure at Rams Hill allows refinement of their chronology. Phase 1 is radiocarbon dated for the first time and appears, contrary to previous indications, not to be very much earlier than phases 2 and 3. The dates are on carefully selected bone samples and give a rather later timespan overall than an earlier set of dates on charcoal, within the 13th–10th centuries cal BC. This span bridges the formal Middle–Late Bronze Age transition, overlapping the use ofPenard and Wilburton metalwork. The opportunity is taken to clarify some confused aspects of Bronze Age periodization.

The development of Bronze Age enclosure in Britain is reviewed. A former suggestion that Rams Hill is representative of a class of Middle Bronze Age high-status enclosure is re-examined. Current evidence does not support the idea of a coherent set of sites either functionally or chronologically. It is considered likely that Rams Hill represents an emergent state of larger-scale enclosure, perhaps after the regular embanking of small domestic sites. However, the precise role of Rams Hill in the regional economy remains enigmatic.

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