7 Kemperton Camp
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Kemperton Camp

Seen from the air, the earthworks of the massive rock-cut ditches and ramparts of Kemerton Camp, an impressive Iron Age hillfort, are found on the summit of Bredon Hill.

The site, enclosed by two ramparts, extends over 22 acres. The first inner rampart was constructed around 300 BC. The outer rampart that had two stone-lined gateways was probably built around the 1st century AD.

The hillfort was attacked not long afterwards, and the gateways were burnt down, the site ransacked and then abandoned and remained relatively undisturbed until its partial archaeological excavation in the 1930s.


Kemperton Camp Ramparts

The ramparts and ditches of Kemerton Camp were dug out from the ooltic limestone bedrock using deer antler picks and perhaps wooden shovels. Woven baskets would have been used to haul the rubble up the banks to create the huge ramparts.

On top of these massive ramparts would have been a close-guarded wooden palisade of upright timbers, with walkways and strong timber gateways strengthened with drystone walling.

Within the ramparts, were the roundhouses where the people lived and worked, that were built from local limestone and timber and thatched with straw from the fields, and reeds from the riverbank.


Domestic considerations

Archaeological excavations discovered some of the houses contained clay-lined pits or cisterns, used for storing water. The nearest spring and water source, now known as St Katherine’s Well, was a long walk down the hill. There were also dozens of clay-lined pits used for storing cereal crops and disposal of rubbish. There was evidence for metal-working within the site.

Iron Age pottery, manufactured from the Lias clay that surrounds the hill was also found. Some was burnished black with a distinctive duck-stamp or backward ‘s’ shaped patterning around the rims. Similar pottery has been found in excavations on sites around the hill.


Human Bones

Excavations at the main entrance of the inner ramparts discovered piles of human bones and fragments of weapons and shields, some in the ditches, and were once thought to be evidence for a massacre.

Archaeologists however, are still not sure what happened here. The artefacts may have been evidence of ritual weapon breaking as offerings to their gods, and the bones may represent execution of criminals or even human sacrifice! Perhaps we will never know what really happened!


Round Barrows

An unusual Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age round barrow (burial mound) was found in a field close to Kemerton Camp by a farmworker in the 1960s, when his plough hit a large piece of stone.\n\nIt was a large slab of limestone that was part of a cist (stone-lined grave) containing human bones.

Analysis of the bones by archaeologists, revealed they belonged to two people – a male and a female.

This burial would have originally been covered with soil and finished off with the local creamy coloured oolitic limestone, which meant it could have been seen for miles around.


Burial contents

The main cist burial contained the body of a strong man in his 50s, buried around 2500BC. His anatomical analysis indicates that he may have been an archer. The female was a tall young woman aged about 25, inserted into the mound many years later. This second burial was particularly interesting and unusual.

Arrow heads, a flint scraper, a fine bone pin were also found as well as a large clay pot, called a ‘beaker’. The archaeological evidence suggest that this may have been a ritual burial of a high status person, perhaps the tribe leader, for example.

Photo is Belas Knap Log Barrow, a 5500 year old burial chamber. Located on Cotswold Way SP 02086 25423.


Beaker Pot

The presence of a Beaker pot is a signature artifact of the ‘Bell Beaker Culture,’  usually shortened to ‘Beaker Culture,’ that rose at the very beginning of the European Bronze Age. It started around 2800 BC, and lasting in continental Europe until 2300 BC.

The beaker design, the chief characteristic, was made from local clay and was decorated by pressing cords or string into the soft clay.

Several other round barrows would have been in the vicinity, and this special place of the ancestors would have been very significant to the people living on and around Bredon Hill.


Task 7 question

How do you make the stripes on a Beaker pot? With a

a) Length of string
b) Twig
c) Deer antler
d) Finger