Back when I lived in Devon there was a hill fort – Hembury Fort – only a mile or two from where I lived. I used to visit it quite often, and wondered how and why forts like it were built. They’re found all over Britain.
Over the past year that I’ve been thinking about ice ages, I’ve begun to wonder if these hill forts may have started out as islands in a sea of ice. For at the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago, as the ice subsided the highest points on the underlying terrain would have emerged to become gradually enlarging islands. So Maiden Castle in Dorset, England, might once have looked like the image at right sometime back then, surrounded by a sea of ice.
My initial thought was that when humans arrived on these islands , they built defensive ramparts around them, because they were valuable property, much like oceanic islands now are. And as the ice subsided around them, they’d build successive layers of defensive ramparts at lower levels.
But there might have been another explanation for these ramparts. And it is that while the ice was for the most part gradually subsiding, it was quite often getting deeper as well. The ice sheets rose and fell from year to year. After a heavy snowfall, the ice might have risen by several tens of metres, and the ramparts were built to hold back this encroaching ice. The human occupants were not defending themselves from other humans: they were building coffer dams to hold back the surrounding ice. And as the ice overwhelmed the lowest ramparts, the humans would retreat behind the next ramparts higher up. If the ice rose too high, they might even have been driven from the islands. Or else, if the ice continued to subside around the islands, it became unnecessary to keep building ramparts further and further down.
In Britain these hill forts would have first emerged through the ice in Scotland, and then in Wales, and then northern England, and finally in the lowlands in the south of England. Seen this way, the Scottish are a distinct island people, and so are the Welsh. They lived on an archipelago of islands much like those now found off the coast of Scotland.
But when did the ice finally depart from what are now the British Isles? And when did the ice first start melting? If the hill forts were once islands in a sea of ice, that would suggest that they are over 10,000 years old. It would only have been once the ice had completely vanished that these islands in the ice sheets would have become the “hill forts” into which Britons retreated during the Roman conquest of Britain
But carbon dating of most of them seem to suggest that they are Iron Age constructions only about 3,000 years old. Although there seem to be some problems with carbon dating around this time: e.g. the Hallstatt plateau. Is it possible to find dates of earth and stones in which no carbon is present?
Roobeedoo has turned up an interesting video of Alex Jones smoking. But what sort of cigarette is it that you take a few puffs on before handing to someone else?