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Settlement and field system on Black Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Cerne Abbas, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.8035 / 50°48'12"N

Longitude: -2.4709 / 2°28'15"W

OS Eastings: 366911.1368

OS Northings: 100544.2873

OS Grid: ST669005

Mapcode National: GBR MW.YRST

Mapcode Global: FRA 56QZ.166

Entry Name: Settlement and field system on Black Hill

Scheduled Date: 9 December 1966

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002846

English Heritage Legacy ID: DO 451

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Cerne Abbas

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Cerne Abbas St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


Part of a multi-period landscape 650m west of Black Hill Farm.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 20 January 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument, which falls into two areas, includes part of a multi period landscape situated on the upper slopes of the prominent Black Hill overlooking the valley of the River Cerne and the dry valley of Oxencombe Bottom. The multi period landscape includes enclosures, settlements, trackways, flint mining and field systems surviving as upstanding earthworks, buried features and deposits and as visible cropmarks on aerial photographs and has produced artefact scatters spanning from the Neolithic to the Roman periods. The settlements are concentrated into two distinct groups. The eastern one includes a roughly triangular enclosure measuring approximately 20m by 12m internally and defined by an up to 12m wide and 0.3m high bank with a buried outer ditch. There are a number of depressions, linear banks indicating trackways and a further slight rectangular enclosure to the north. The settlement is surrounded by a field system which is visible on aerial photographs. The second settlement area to the north west includes a roughly square enclosure of approximately 20m internally with a south facing entrance which opens onto a clearly defined and embanked track. The defining enclosure bank is up to 6m wide and 1.2m high. In places an outer ditch is visible. At least two round houses have been identified measuring up to 10m diameter internally and defined by banks up to 4m wide and 0.5m high. Surrounding the settlement are a number of hollows and an extensive field system. Partial excavations during 1981-2 and extensive field walking in 1983 revealed a palimpsest of land use spanning from Late Neolithic flint extraction, to early Bronze Age settlement which continued along with agriculture until the Romano British period. The banks were found to be strongly constructed with distinct flint rich cores. A nearby bowl barrow is the subject of a separate scheduling.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Flint mines are found where, during Neolithic and Early Bronze Age times (c.3500-1200 BC), nodules of flint were extracted from underground seams within chalk deposits. There is no pattern or regular form to the arrangement of mine sites as the shafts, pits or open-cast workings are closely related to the underlying supplies of flint rather than an overall scheme of how the mine should be organised. In overall size, flint mines range from single shafts and associated works covering less than 1ha, to large mines of several hundred shafts spread over an extensive area. The workings were excavated by hand with antler picks and a selection of specialist bone, antler, wood and flint tools. Extensive flint knapping floors, areas where the mined flint was worked, are sometimes found within and around the mine area, along with hearths and traces of timber buildings. Evidence of secondary uses of abandoned flint mines is fairly common, and human burials dating from Neolithic times onwards are regularly found in the upper fills of pits and shafts. The hollows left in the tops of in-filled shafts also provided suitable areas for occupation long after the mines themselves had gone out of use. The distribution of flint mines is dictated by the extent of the Upper Chalk, the geological band in which seams of flint occur. Flint mines are known in most areas of Upper Chalk outcrops and generally occur on the tops of hills or ridges, or along their flanking slopes, from Norfolk to Dorset. Flint mines are rare with only around 20 examples known nationally. As one of the relatively few classes of monuments dating to all phases of the Neolithic period, they contain evidence relating to technology and work organisation in the period and represent the source of the most commonly used and widespread material available for making edged tools and implements. Small enclosed settlements dating from the Middle Bronze Age are often associated with earlier field systems and are known on some sites to have replaced earlier unenclosed settlements. Enclosures of both sub-rectangular and curvilinear plan are known; the sites are wholly or partly surrounded by a ditch, bank or palisade, or by a combination or succession of all three. Where excavated, sites have usually been found to contain a small group of domestic buildings sufficient for a single or extended family group, although a few larger enclosures are known. Evidence of a succession of buildings has been found on some sites. The buildings are usually circular in plan but occasional rectangular structures are known. Both types of building would have provided a combination of living accommodation and storage or working areas. Although the precise figure is not known, many small enclosed settlements are located on the chalk downland of southern England. As a class they are integral to understanding Bronze Age settlement and land use strategies. A small number of small enclosed settlements survive on downland as visible earthworks; the majority, however, occur in areas of more intensive cultivation and survive in buried form, visible only from the air as soil marks and crop marks. The size and form of Iron Age enclosed settlements vary considerably from single farmsteads up to large semi-urban Oppida. Farmsteads are generally represented by enclosures containing evidence of a small group of circular domestic buildings and associated agricultural structures. Where excavated, these sites are also found to contain pits or rectangular post- built structures for the storage of grain and other produce, evidence of an organised and efficient farming system. The surrounding enclosures would have provided protection against cattle rustling and tribal raiding. Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system. The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. They represent a coherent economic unit often utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several centuries. The part of the multi period landscape 650m west of Black Hill Farm bears witness to varied activity from flint mining to agriculture and settlement over a prolonged period and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to both mineral and agricultural exploitation, agricultural practices through time, land apportionment, social organisation, settlement patterns, domestic arrangements and the overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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