Causewayed enclosure

A causewayed enclosure is a type of large prehistoric earthwork common to the early Neolithic in Europe. More than 100 examples are recorded in France and 70 in England, while further sites are known in Scandinavia, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Slovakia.

The term "causewayed enclosure" is now preferred to the older term causewayed camp as it has been demonstrated that the sites did not necessarily serve as occupation sites.


Causewayed enclosures are often located on hilltop sites, encircled by one to four concentric ditches with an internal bank. Enclosures located in lowland areas are generally larger than hilltop ones. Crossing the ditches at intervals are causeways which give the monuments their names. It appears that the ditches were excavated in sections, leaving the wide causeways intact in between. They should not be confused with segmented, or causewayed ring ditches, which are smaller and are thought to relate only to funerary activity, or with hillforts, which appeared later and had a definite defensive function. With regard to defensive functionality, however, evidence of timber palisades has been found at some sites such as Hambledon Hill.


Archaeological evidence implies that the enclosures were visited occasionally by Neolithic groups rather than being permanently occupied. The presence of human remains in the banks and ditches of the enclosures has been seen as an attempt by the builders to connect their ancestors with the land and thus begin to anchor themselves to specific areas. Longitudinal sections excavated along the ditches by archaeologists suggest that the builders repeatedly redug the ditches and each time deliberately deposited pottery and human and animal bones, apparently as a regular ritual. Environmental archaeology suggests that the European landscape was in general heavily forested when the enclosures were built and that they were rare clearings in the woodland that were used for various social and economic activities.

In the 1970s the archaeologist Peter Drewett suggested seven possible functions for the sites:

Other interpretations have seen the causeways as symbolic of multi-directional access to the site by scattered communities, the enclosures as funerary centres for excarnation or the construction of the site being a communal act of creation by a fragmented society.

Animal remains (especially cattle bone), domestic waste and pottery have been found at the sites. But there has been limited evidence of any structures. In some locations, such as Windmill Hill, Avebury, evidence of human occupation predates the enclosure. Generally, it appears that the ditches were permitted to silt up, even while the camps were in use, and then re-excavated episodically.[1] It is unlikely that they had a strong defensive purpose. The earthworks may have been designed to keep out wild animals rather than people. The sequential addition of second, third and fourth circuits of banks and ditches may have come about through growing populations adding to the significance of their peoples' monument over time. In some cases, they appear to have evolved into more permanent settlements.

Most causewayed enclosures have been ploughed away in the intervening millennia and are recognized through aerial archaeology. The first were constructed in the fifth millennium BC and by the early third millennium BC; notable regional variations occur in their construction. French examples begin to demonstrate elaborate horn-shaped entrances which are interpreted as being designed to impress from afar rather than serve any practical purpose.

Aubrey Burl believes that building of causewayed enclosures declined by 3000 BC and they were superseded by more localised types of earthworks and other structures. In Britain, such replacements include Stonehenge I, Flagstones, Duggleby Howe and Ring of Bookan, and the later henge monuments.


Examples of causewayed enclosures include:


Burham causewayed enclosure
Causewayed enclosure at Burham, Kent.


  • Champ Durand
  • La Coterelle
  • Diconche
  • Chez Reine near Semussac
  • La Mastine



See also


  1. ^ England, Historic. "Search All Publications - Historic England".
Abingdon ware

Abingdon ware is a Middle Neolithic (3900-3200 BC), decorated, round-bottomed pottery found in an ancient causewayed enclosure at Abingdon-on-Thames, whence the name, about 15 kilometres south of Oxford, as well as in the upper Thames valley and central England.Abingdon ware belongs to the earliest pottery found in Great Britain and was discovered together with a handful of Peterborough, Grooved and Beaker ware as well as Bronze Age sherds. It is a regional variation of the so-called Southern Decorated series. The Abingdon Causewayed Enclosure has been dated to the 37th or 36th century BC.

Ben Cunnington (archaeologist)

Edward Benjamin Howard Cunnington (1861–1950), was a British archaeologist most famous for his work on prehistoric Wiltshire. He was the great grandson of the famous antiquarian William Cunnington and the fourth generation of his family to work recording and preserving Wiltshire's past.

The son of Henry Cunnington, a wine merchant, Benjamin was a journalist before joining his father's business. He was also for sixty years also the unpaid honorary curator of Devizes Museum. In 1889 he married Maud Pegge and the two devoted their lives to archaeology. They had one son, Edward, who was killed in the First World War.

The Cunningtons carried out excavations at some of the most important sites in British archaeology. These included the first known Neolithic causewayed enclosure at Knap Hil, the Iron age village at All Cannings Cross, West Kennet Long Barrow, Woodhenge, (which they named) and The Sanctuary. This last monument they rediscovered as it had been lost since William Stukeley saw it in the eighteenth century. Woodhenge and The Sanctuary were bought by the Cunningtons and given to the nation.

He died a few months before his wife, who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Etton, Cambridgeshire

Etton is a village and civil parish in the unitary authority area of the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in England. For electoral purposes it forms part of Northborough ward in North West Cambridgeshire constituency. The parish had a population of 158 persons and 58 households in 2001.Woodcroft is a deserted medieval village and site of Woodcroft Castle.

Flagstones Enclosure

Flagstones is a late Neolithic interrupted ditch enclosure (similar to a causewayed enclosure) on the outskirts of Dorchester, Dorset, England. It derives its name from having been discovered beneath the site of the demolished Flagstones House. Half of it was excavated in the 1980s when the Dorchester by-pass was built; the rest of it still exists under the grounds of Max Gate, Thomas Hardy's house.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.


Hembury is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure and Iron Age hill fort near Honiton in Devon. Its history stretches from the late fifth and early fourth millennia BC to the Roman invasion. The fort is situated on a south facing promontory at the end of a 240m high ridge in the Blackdown Hills. It lies to the north of and overlooking the River Otter valley and this location was probably chosen to give good views of the surrounding countryside as well as for defensive reasons.


There are three related types of Neolithic earthwork that are all sometimes loosely called henges. The essential characteristic of all three is that they feature a ring-shaped bank and ditch, with the ditch inside the bank. Because the internal ditches would have served defensive purposes poorly, henges are not considered to have been defensive constructions (cf. circular rampart). The three henge types are as follows, with the figure in brackets being the approximate diameter of the central flat area:

Henge (> 20 m). The word henge refers to a particular type of earthwork of the Neolithic period, typically consisting of a roughly circular or oval-shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a central flat area of more than 20 m (66 ft) in diameter. There is typically little if any evidence of occupation in a henge, although they may contain ritual structures such as stone circles, timber circles and coves. Henge monument is sometimes used as a synonym for henge. Henges sometimes, but by no means always, featured stone or timber circles, and circle henge is sometimes used to describe these structures. The three largest stone circles in Britain (Avebury, the Great Circle at Stanton Drew stone circles and the Ring of Brodgar) are each in a henge. Examples of henges without significant internal monuments are the three henges of Thornborough Henges. Although having given its name to the word henge, Stonehenge is atypical in that the ditch is outside the main earthwork bank.

Hengiform monument (5 – 20 m). Like an ordinary henge except the central flat area is between 5 and 20 m (16–66 ft) in diameter, they comprise a modest earthwork with a fairly wide outer bank. Mini henge or Dorchester henge are sometimes used as synonyms for hengiform monument. An example is the Neolithic site at Wormy Hillock Henge.

Henge enclosure (> 300 m). A Neolithic ring earthwork with the ditch inside the bank, with the central flat area having abundant evidence of occupation and usually being more than 300 m (980 ft) in diameter. Some true henges are as large as this (e.g., Avebury), but lack evidence of domestic occupation. Super henge is sometimes used as a synonym for a henge enclosure. However, sometimes Super henge is used to indicate size alone rather than use, e.g. "Marden henge ... is the least understood of the four British 'superhenges' (the others being Avebury, Durrington Walls and Mount Pleasant Henge)".

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Raddon Top

Raddon Top is the highest point of the Raddon Hills, a small ridge of hills in the Shobrooke area of Mid Devon. The summit is at some 235 metres above sea level, making it a significant feature in the surrounding countryside.There is an unclassified road that traverses the hill which is the main route from the village of Cheriton Fitzpaine to Exeter.

There were earthworks on the summit, but by the 16th century these had almost been ploughed away. Archaeological excavations in 1994 revealed remains of an Early Iron Age palisaded enclosure and an Iron Age hillfort with timber ramparts. The same excavations also uncovered a much earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosure.

Robin Hood's Ball

Robin Hood’s Ball is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It is approximately 5 miles (8 km) northwest of the town of Amesbury, and 2 1⁄2 miles (4.0 km) northwest of Stonehenge. It was formerly known as Neath Barrow.

The site was designated as a scheduled monument in 1965.

Tor enclosure

A tor enclosure is a prehistoric monument found in the southwestern part of Great Britain. These monuments emerged around 4000 BC in the early


Trundle (hill fort)

The Trundle (Old English: Tryndel, meaning "circle") is an Iron Age hill fort on Saint Roche's Hill about 3 miles (5 km) north of Chichester, Sussex, England. The fort was built around a Neolithic causewayed enclosure, of which very little can be seen on the ground.

Whitehawk Camp

Whitehawk Camp, on Whitehawk Hill is one of the earliest signs of human habitation in Brighton and Hove, Sussex, England. It is the remains of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure inhabited sometime around 2700 BCE and is a scheduled ancient monument. It has been described as one of the first monuments in England to be identified as being of national importance, and one of the most important Neolithic sites in the country.It is one of only twelve remaining examples of a causewayed enclosure from the Windmill Hill culture in Britain and one of three known to have existed in the South Downs. It reaches 396 feet above sea level and measures 950 feet by 700 feet. It is made up of four concentric ditches broken up by causeways. The first written mention of the camp (as "White Hawke Hill") was in 1587.

It was the first scheduled ancient monument in Sussex. It was excavated three times between 1929 and 1935. The 1932 excavation was carried out by Cecil Curwen, and found the remains of humans buried with fossilised sea urchins. The 1935 dig was a rescue dig by students of Mortimer Wheeler, when a road was driven through the camp. Much of the camp was, by that time, levelled under Brighton Racecourse and allotments.The remains of four complete burials were found, including the bodies of an eight-year-old child and a young woman buried alongside the remains of a newborn child, as well as some other human bones. Also found in the infill of the circular ditches were many flint tools, potshards and animal bones. Only part of the causewayed enclosure has been investigated by archaeologists.

Whitehawk Hill

Whitehawk Hill is a 50.3-hectare (124-acre) Local Nature Reserve in Brighton in East Sussex. It is owned and managed by Brighton and Hove City Council. Part of it is Whitehawk Camp, a Neolithic causewayed enclosure which is a Scheduled Monument.This is species-rich chalk grassland which has views over Brighton and the sea, together with the Isle of Wight on clear days. There are colonies of chalkhill blue butterflies.On the Whitehawk Hill there is a 45 meter high radio mast.

Willingdon Down

Willingdon Down is a 67.5-hectare (167-acre) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest west of Willingdon, a suburb of Eastbourne in East Sussex. Part of it is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure which is a Scheduled MonumentThis steeply sloping site on the South Downs is species-rich chalk grassland, a nationally uncommon type of habitat. The dominant grasses are sheep’s fescue and upright brome and uncommon plants include field fleawort, bee orchid, round headed rampion, green winged orchid and burnt orchid.The site is public open access land.

Windmill Hill, Avebury

Windmill Hill is a Neolithic causewayed enclosure in the English county of Wiltshire, part of the Avebury World Heritage Site, about 1 mile (2 km) northwest of Avebury. Enclosing an area of 21 acres (8.5 ha), it is the largest known causewayed enclosure in Britain. The site was first occupied around 3800 BC, although the only evidence is a series of pits apparently dug by an agrarian society using Hembury pottery.

During a later phase, c. 3300 BC, three concentric segmented ditches were placed around the hilltop site, the outermost with a diameter of 365 metres. The causeways interrupting the ditches vary in width from a few centimetres to 7 m. Material from the ditches was piled up to create internal banks, the deepest ditches and largest banks are on the outer circuit.

The site was bought by Alexander Keiller in 1924 and excavated over several seasons from 1926–1929 by Keiller and Harold St George Gray whose work established it as the type site for causewayed camps as they were then called.

Pottery from the bottom of the ditches was also the type style for the Windmill Hill culture. Later occupation layers contained early Peterborough ware, then the later Mortlake and Fengate varieties. Large quantities of bone, both human and animal, were also recovered from the ditch fill. The camp remained in use throughout the rest of the Neolithic with Grooved ware and Beaker potsherds having been found in later deposits. A Bronze Age bell barrow was later built between the inner and middle rings.

Michael Dames has proposed a composite theory of seasonal rituals in an attempt to explain Windmill Hill and its associated sites: (West Kennet Long Barrow, the Avebury henge, The Sanctuary, and Silbury Hill).

Windmill Hill culture

The Windmill Hill culture was a name given to a people inhabiting southern Britain, in particular in the Salisbury Plain area close to Stonehenge, c. 3000 BC. They were an agrarian Neolithic people; their name comes from Windmill Hill, a causewayed enclosure. Together with another Neolithic tribe from East Anglia, a tribe whose worship involved stone circles, it is thought that they were responsible for the earliest work on the Stonehenge site.

The material record left by these people includes large circular hill-top enclosures, causewayed enclosures, long barrows, leaf-shaped arrowheads, and polished stone axes. They raised cattle, sheep, pigs, and dogs, and grew wheat and mined flints.

Since the term was first coined by archaeologists, further excavation and analysis has indicated that it consisted of several discrete cultures such as the Hembury and the Abingdon cultures; and that "Windmill Hill culture" is too general a term.


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