The War Cemetery

Sir Wheeler’s excavations in the 1930s uncovered an extensive late Iron Age cemetery of more than 52 burials - some of the male skeletons from this cemetery displayed horrific injuries.

Wheeler believed this was a war cemetery, evidence for a Roman attack on the hillfort, following their invasion of Britain in AD 43. The 2nd Legion Augusta, under their leader Vespasian, is indeed known to have led a campaign through this part of southern England.

In the 70 years since Wheeler’s excavations, ideas about this cemetery have changed. Actually, only a handful of the individuals had died of violent injuries. The people had been carefully buried with grave goods; not only personal ornaments such as beads, brooches and rings, but also pottery and joints of meat.

Such funerary rituals do not suggest hastily dug graves after a single battle, but a cemetery that was used to bury soldiers and other people over a period of time. The battle-scarred warriors may have been injured defending Maiden Castle from the Romans, but it is equally likely that they had been involved in local skirmishes.

Disclaimer

The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.

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