NoFollowing Wheeler's excavations at Maiden Castle, the multivallate hillforts of Wessex came to be seen as responses to a specific form of warfare based around the massed use of slings. As part of the wider post-processual 'rethink' of the British Iron Age during the late 1980s and 1990s, this traditional 'military' interpretation of hillforts was increasingly subject to criticism. Apparent weaknesses in hillfort design were identified and many of the most distinctive features of these sites (depth of enclosure, complexity of entrance arrangements, etc) were reinterpreted as symbols of social isolation. Yet this 'pacification' of hillforts is in many ways as unsatisfactory as the traditional vision. Both camps have tended to view warfare as a detached, functional, and disembedded activity which can be analysed in terms of essentially timeless concepts of military efficiency. Consideration of the use of analogous structures in the ethnographic record suggests that, far from being mutually exclusive, the military and symbolic dimensions are both essential to a more nuanced understanding of the wider social role of hillforts in Britain and beyond
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