Maiden Castle in Dorset is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe - the size of 50 football pitches. Its huge multiple ramparts, mostly built in the 1st century BC, once protected hundreds of residents. When it was first built, the gleaming white chalk ramparts would have towered over the surrounding landscape.
Excavations here have revealed much about Maiden Castle's history, such as a Neolithic enclosure from about 3500 BC and a Roman temple built in the 4th century AD. The archaeologists also found evidence of a late Iron Age cemetery, where many of those buried had suffered horrific injuries.
Read more about Maiden Castle's history.
Before You Go
Access: The site is very exposed, with no shelter. The ramparts are also uneven and not suitable for wheelchairs. View details.
Parking: There is a small car park onsite which can become busy at peak times.
Dogs: Dogs are welcome, but please keep them on a lead as sheep graze the site.
Plan a Great Day Out
Extend your visit to Maiden Castle by exploring some of the other sites in the area. Three miles from Maiden Castle are The Nine Stones, a small prehistoric circle of standing stones. Slightly further in the same direction is Winterbourne Poor Lot Barrows, a series of 44 Bronze Age burials south of the A35.
The nearby village of Abbotsbury is also home to St Catherine's Chapel and the remains of a Benedictine Abbey. If you are heading to the coast, why not also visit one of Henry VIII's finest coastal fortresses - Portland Castle overlooks Portland Harbour and boasts a great tearoom and stunning views out to sea.
Around 3500 BCEarly Enclosure
A 'causewayed enclosure' with two concentric ditches is built on the hilltop.
Around 3470 BCBank Barrow
The enclosure is no longer used. A long mound is constructed, surrounded by two ditches. It possibly acts as a landscape marker or boundary.
Around 800 BCFirst Hillfort
The first, smaller, hillfort is constructed. It is enclosed by one rampart and is built on top of the earlier Neolithic enclosure.
Around 700 BCFort Roundhouses
The fort is densely occupied with many roundhouses. These have central hearths and large pits for grain storage. Textile production and metalworking took place.
Around 550 BCHillfort Expansion
A much larger area is enclosed and the layout of the houses is organised into rows. The defences are also made more complex.
300 BC-AD 43End of the Hillfort
Settlement becomes concentrated in a smaller area. Bodies are buried in a cemetery, many of which are marked by major injuries, from local skirmishes or battles with the invading Romans.
AD 43-100Arrival of the Romans
The Romans found the nearby town of Dorchester. The hillfort is abandoned.
4th centuryRomano-British Temple
A Roman temple complex, possibly devoted to the goddess Minerva, is built. Gifts and offerings include coins and imported Mediterranean statues.
Maiden Castle is taken into state guardianship.
Sir Mortimer Wheeler excavates and uncovers an extensive late Iron Age cemetery. Injured skeletons may indicate that Romans had attacked the hillfort.
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