3.3 Defensive location

The topographic position of each site — hilltop, hillslope, ridge, promontory, valley floor, etc. — was recorded during fieldwork, as was whether the site lay in a good defensive, semi- or non-defensive location. A good defensive location included coastal promontories, tops of steep-sided hills and steep-sided inland promontories. Semi-defensive positions include rounded hilltops, scarp edges and most inland promontories. Hillslopes, plateaux and valley floors are included in non-defensive locations. For simplicity just the three defensive categories are shown on Map 4, not all the permutations of position.

Map 4
Map 4: Distribution of all sites by defensive position.

It is tempting to view this map as a simple reflection of topography, with sites in good defensive locations mainly confined to areas where the landscape is appropriate, such as north Ceredigion. There are, however, subtleties to the distribution that require comment. Clearly the topography must be suitable for a site to be located in a good defensive location, but there are numerous sites lying within landscapes of high relief that have been deliberately sited in defensively less advantageous positions. Presumably the convenience of being located in a more easily accessible location, perhaps close to water supplies and to fertile land, outweighed the defensive and display advantages of a hilltop position.

In areas of lower relief, such as across central Pembrokeshire, site positioning is subtler. Here, in this landscape of small defended enclosures, some sites are located on rounded hilltops, in a semi-defensive location. Numerous sites, however, eschew hilltop locations and are instead positioned on slopes just off the highest point, often overlooked, and with blind spots in more than one direction. Shelter does not seem to have been a factor in locating sites in this position as many face the prevailing wind on southwest-facing slopes. Other sites are on north- or east-facing slopes and therefore being in a position to catch maximum sun does not seem to be a factor either. Less tangible factors should be considered; for instance hilltops might have been considered sacred spaces that were set aside for ceremonies.


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Last updated: Mon Dec 14 2009