|I've just been thumbing through Castleden's Neolithic Britain, and came across the section on Crickley Hill. The site's produced some pretty interesting finds - definitely some food for thought if you should trek up here.
The spur was originally cut off by two arcing ditches in the Neolithic, way before the Iron Age hillfort that you assume Crickley Hill is. The ditches were apparently filled and recut several times - rather strange, but this was done at other Neolithic causewayed enclosures too.
After they'd done with this stage the site was given even deeper ditches and a drystone wall rampart topped with a timber stockade. Inside there were houses and roadways - a fortified village. This is very uncommon for the Neolithic. There were two entrances closed by substantial gates (gathered from the size of the postholes), and round these were found over 200 arrow heads (I'm not one for too many material items, but ooh I'd love a neolithic arrowhead) and evidence of burning. The site was apparently attacked c. 2500bce (the late neolithic).
The western tip of the spur had been developed as a shrine area from early on - a cobbled stone platform surrounded by fences and approached by a narrow fenced path. A stone barred access directly to the platform from the path - the archaeologists could tell that people had walked round it to the left and passed through a gateway to get onto the platform. The platform was extremely free of finds (kept clean?), but at its edges were piles of bones and pottery and flints (offerings?). A small building was at the west of the platform, its open side facing the path, and fires were lit outside it.
The ritual platform was later destroyed, but about 400 years after its construction (c2300bce) the west end was covered with a cairn and a stone circle raised. The interior of the circle was cobbled, with a large slab at the middle (where they found evidence of burning).
The cairn was later extended to make a 100m long 4m wide mound, using topsoil from somewhere outside the site. At the east end of the mound was a paved semicircular forecourt and a large post hole (to hold what? Castleden suggests a 'totem pole'). At the west end there was another paved area. Looking at the trampling, archaeologists were able to suggest that people processed along the side of the mound and then clockwise round inside the stone circle. Pretty cool if it's true, because you usually imagine such information to be unknowable.
The long mound is still there on Crickley Hill, but not the stone ring which 'has been reburied for its own safety'. Castleden concludes: "There is no surface trace of the destroyed Neolithic settlement, and, in fact, little to suggest that this is a key site in British archaeology." I guess we'll have to use our imaginations then, but that's ok.
Posted by Rhiannon
17th April 2003ce
Edited 17th April 2003ce