3.4 Requiring more than simplification

It is not suggested that simplified and/or small-scale plans of hillforts lacking useful topographic information can have no illustrative role.33 On the contrary, it is plain that they fulfil certain purposes perfectly well — for instance, in drawing elementary comparisons between various hillforts by way of such criteria as overall extent of earthworks and/or areas enclosed (e.g. RCAHMW 1986, fig. 7, formulating a classification for Brecknock), or in exemplifying broadly-defined categories or characteristics (e.g. Cunliffe 1991, figs 13.4, 13.11, 13.16 and 14.19, portraying multiple-enclosure forts, promontory forts and extended forts), or in sketching out a postulated developmental sequence for a particular hillfort (e.g. Avery 1993, fig. 40, apropos of Ffridd Faldwyn), or in elucidating shared attributes of earthwork design (e.g. Driver 2013, fig. 6.26, delineating a 'façade scheme' in Ceredigion). None the less, it seems undeniable that thoughtful engagement either with an individual hillfort or with close comparisons between neighbouring or analogous forts requires more than simplification. What some may regard, at first sight, as mere minutiae of the topography of a hillfort and its setting may well warrant careful attention, and it can fairly be said that, the greater the amount of detail observed and recorded, the better is the chance of understanding a hillfort correctly, even by those compiling the record — and the better preserved the hillfort, the more this maxim is likely to apply.

As much as any type of monument surviving from prehistory in a fit state for close study, well-preserved hillforts need the morphology of the underlying terrain to be depicted as clearly as that of their earthworks, walls, etc., in order that nuances in form and siting of those 'defences' can be given the consideration that is their due. Once more, the nub of this discussion is surely that the devil can lurk in the lack of detail, and it is a frustration that such a basic requirement as close contouring of background topography is still missing far more often than not. It can but be hoped that this deficiency is to be blamed more upon cost (i.e. because both time-consuming and technically demanding) than upon any inclination or indifference on the part of those responsible for such fieldwork.34 If so, it may be that the best prospect of advance in this matter does lie with recent technological developments, especially LiDAR, which, at least where available at little expense and to an acceptable specification, may come to the rescue by making it feasible to undertake certain (but certainly not all) parts of a surface survey, even of one for conventional depiction, with great accuracy and at greater pace, so less cost, in the office than on the ground.35 That said, however, our present gross record of the surface form of hillforts can be held to demonstrate how much fundamental work remains to be done before it will be possible to achieve a well-grounded appreciation of the essential qualities of the truly impressive stock of these monuments situated within Wales, as elsewhere in Britain.


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