Bid to Unravel Puzzle of Hill Fort; WELSH ARCHAEOLOGISTS JOIN DIG AT MYSTERY IRON AGE SITE

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Byline: EMMA HALLETT

A MAJOR excavation by a team of Welsh archaeologists has begun at Britain's biggest Iron Age hill fort aimed at giving a deeper insight to life in Britain 2,000 years ago.

Digging is under way at Ham Hill in Somerset, and despite it being four times the size of any other Iron Age hill fort in Britain, researchers are still unclear about when the site was built or what it was for.

Historians looking inside the Iron Age fortress hope the dig will at last enable them to explain the meaning and purpose of the site.

Ham Hill dominates the landscape a few miles west of Yeovil, stretching across an area measuring more than 80 hectares. But archaeologists say its sheer scale presents a historical puzzle since no Iron Age society could have mustered enough people to defend such a huge site. While it is therefore unlikely that Ham Hill functioned as a serviceable fort, nobody has been able to explain what it was used for.

Now researchers - a joint team from the universities of Cardiff and Cambridge - have started to extend their excavations of the site to find out more.

Niall Sharples, from the school of history, archaeology and religion at Cardiff University, said: "It's a bit of an enigma. Ham Hill is so big that no archaeologist has ever really been able to get a handle on it.

"As a result, there has never been a thorough campaign of excavations and nobody knows how the settlement was organised inside.

"People think of these places as defensive structures, but it is inconceivable that such a place could have been defended.

Thousands of people would have been required; militarily, it would have been a nightmare. …