Camps and forts

Camps and hillforts, with their largely circular enclosures bounded by ramparts and ditches, are some of the most notable features in the Cheviots. Those that have been excavated date from the late Iron Age, sometimes with use extending into the Roman-British period.

Often described as forts, the term dates from a time when it was believed that aggressive behaviour dominated the Iron Age. There can be no doubt that some of these sites were involved in warfare; excavations elsewhere have found the bodies of people who definitely died fighting. No such evidence has been found in the Cheviots, perhaps because soil conditions are bad for the preservation of bodies

While some of the structures are in defensible positions and clearly built with protection in mind, others are much more vulnerable, positioned on slopes or spurs below any summit. And although surviving examples are usually found on hills, aerial photographs show that these circular camps were not confined to the uplands; now hidden under farmland they were also common elsewhere

So defence may have been only one of the issues considered when they were built, with other factors including access to water and farmland, as well as the need to show strength and status.

Some camps are full of the remains of roundhouses, while others are completely empty.  So it’s probable they had differing uses, ranging perhaps from being defended settlements to being places of refuge in times of crisis.  They might even have ben built for occasional use such as gatherings for trade or stock protection and management.

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