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Sep 25

Guide – Glossary

Glossary of prehistoric features

This section was compiled with the help of the English Heritage NMR record. It currently includes descriptions for those Military, Domestic and Agricultural features that would have been in existence up to the Roman Period in Britain.

Primary Name
Alternate Name(s)
Description
ALTAR
An elevated table or podium on which to place or sacrifice offerings to the deities.
AMPHITHEATRE
Arena
An oval or circular building with seats rising in tiers around a central open space. Used for religious ceremonies, entertainment, training and armed combat contests.
ARD MARKS
Ardmarks
The subsoil traces of prehistoric cultivation, presumed to have been caused by the use of an ard to till the soil.
AUXILIARY FORT
A permanent Roman fort enclosed by a number of ditches and ramparts, used to house a garrison of auxiliaries.
AVENUE
A monument consisting of parallel lines of banks, ditches, stones, timber posts or trees which appears to mark out an approach to another monument or monuments. Use specific type where known.
BANK BARROW
A poorly understood Neolithic monument comprising a very long, narrow earthen mound. They may be of single-phase construction, or represent the addition of a linear extension to the bank of an existing Long Barrow.
BARRACKS
Barrack Block
A building used to house members of the armed forces
BARROW
Burial Mound, Hlaew, Howe, Knowe, Tumulus
Artificial mound of earth, turf and/or stone, normally constructed to contain or conceal burials.
BATTLEFIELD
The field or area of ground on which a battle or skirmish was fought.
BIVALLATE HILLFORT
A hilltop enclosure bounded by a double line of ramparts.
BOUNDARY CROSS
A sculpted cross, or a cross incised into stone or trees, to mark a parish boundary.
BROAD RIDGE AND FURROW
Long parallel soil ridges in excess of 5 metres across separated by furrows, formed by using a heavy plough capable of turning the soil
BURNT MOUND
Boiling Mound
A mound of fire-cracked stones, normally accompanied by a trough or pit which may have been lined with wood, stone or clay. Assumed to be locations where heated stones were used to boil water primarily for cooking purposes.
CAIRN
A monument featuring a bank or mound constructed primarily of stone.
CAIRNFIELD
A group of cairns occurring within close proximity to each other. Use for instances where the majority are clearance cairns. Also index specific types where known.
CAUSEWAYED RING DITCH
A monument comprising an irregularly circular enclosing ditch, interrupted by several causeways, surrounding a central circular area used for funerary activities, often concealed originally beneath an earthen mound. Index with barrow type where known.
CELTIC FIELD SYSTEM
A fairly regular system of small rectangular fields. Examples may date from the middle Bronze Age to the Roman period. The word ‘Celtic’ carries no chronological or cultural connotations in this context.
CHAMBERED BARROWS
A Neolithic burial monument comprising a stone-built chamber within an earthen mound.
CHAMBERED LONG BARROW
Gallery Grave, Trascepted Gallery Grave
Neolithic burial monument comprising a stone-built chamber within a rectangular or trapezoidal earthen mound.
CHAMBERED ROUND BARROW
Gallery Grave, Trascepted Gallery Grave
A Neolithic burial monument comprising a stone-built chamber within a circular or sub-circular earthen mound.
CHEVAUX DE FRISE
A system of stones or wooden obstacles placed close together to impede the advance of enemy forces.
CIVITAS CAPITAL
A planned administrative capital for local government which provided amenities for the Roman and peregrine (non-Roman) inhabitants of the town.
CLEARANCE CAIRN
Field Clearance Cairn
An irregularly constructed, generally unstructured, mound of stones. Often, but not necessarily, circular. Normally a by product of field clearance for agricultural purposes.
CLIFF CASTLE
An enclosure created by constructing one or more lines of ramparts across a promontory which projects into the sea.
CLOTHES LINE ENCLOSURE
A small rectangular or sub circular area or areas bounded by an earthwork, ditch or similar boundary, where one side is formed by an existing linear boundary, forming a pattern reminiscent of clothes hanging from a washing line.
COLONIA
A town founded as an act of government by charter to house Roman or Latin citizens, usually retired legionaires who had been granted land within a territorium.
COOKING PIT
A pit which shows evidence for having been used for cooking. Often contains charcoal, burnt bone fragments etc.
CORD RIG
Narrow ridges representing the surviving surface traces of later prehistoric cultivation.
COURTYARD HOUSE
Yard House
A building or buildings ranged around a courtyard on at least three sides. They occur in the Iron Age, as well as being an influential plan type of house from the 15th century onwards. Index with appropriate period.
CRANNOG
Lake Dwelling
An island, partly or wholly artificial, built up by dumping timber, earth and stones onto a lake or river bed. Often revetted with timber piles or palisade.
CROSS
Churchyard Cross, Market Cross, Causeway Cross etc.
A free-standing structure, in the form of a cross (+), symbolizing the structure on which Jesus Christ was crucified and sacred to the Christian faith. Use specific type where known.
CULTIVATION MARKS
Manmade marks or earthworks which provide evidence for agricultural cultivation.
CURSUS
A long narrow rectangular earthwork enclosure of Neolithic date, usually defined by a bank and ditch and presumed to be of ceremonial function. Known examples range in length from less than 100m to c.10km.
D SHAPED BARROWS
Not a round barrow ploughed out at one end, but a specific type, the flat edge being additionally defined by stone slabs
DYKE (DEFENCE)
Dike
A defensive or boundary earthwork.
EMBANKED AVENUE
A monument consisting of parallel banks, normally accompanied by ditches, which appears to mark out an approach to another monument or monuments.
ENCLOSED OPPIDUM
A site with one or more defensive earthworks, often at a river crossing incorporating natural features which define parts of the curtilage.
ENCLOSED SETTLEMENT
Enclosed Platform Settlement, Gussage Style Enclosure, Itford Style Enclosure, Martin Down Style Enclosure, Springfield Style Enclosure, Wooton Hill Style Enclosure.
A site used primarily for domestic purposes on at least a semi-permanent or seasonal basis, and which has been surrounded by a bank and ditch, palisade, or some other form of enclosure. Use more specific type(s) where appropriate.
FIELDWORK
Military Earthwork
A usually temporary earthwork or fortification, the latter constructed by military forces operating in the field. Use more specific type where known.
FOGOU
Fougou
Underground chambers and stone passages of Iron Age date found in South West England.
FORT
Praetentura, Praetorium, Roman Fort
A permanently occupied position or building designed primarily for defence.
FORT ANNEXE
A small enclosure built onto the perimeter of a Roman fortress
FORTIFICATION
A usually permanent defensive work.
FORTLET
Fortilace, Roman Fortlet
A fortified Roman site, usually under 1 hectare in area, strategically situated, housing small military patrols, often defended by a rampart, one or two ditches and a gate.
FRONTIER DEFENCE
Curtain Frontier, Frontier Works
A system of fortifications constructed along a national frontier to contain the local population, as well as keep out undesirable raiders eg. Offa’s Dyke. Use with more specific monument type where known.
FUNERARY SITE
Site types normally or frequently associated with burials which in some instances may have had solely religious or ritual functions.
GRAIN STORAGE PIT
A pit where grain is stored.
GYRUS
A sunken arena used by the Romans for training cavalry horses and recruits.
HIGH CROSS

A churchyard or memorial cross set on a long shaft
HILLFORT
Contour Fort
A hilltop enclosure bounded by one or more substantial banks, ramparts and ditches. Use more specific type where known.
HILLTOP ENCLOSURE
A substantial area of ground surrounded by slight univallate earthwork often interpreted as stock enclosures or as sites where agricultural produce was stored.
HUT
Beehive Hut
A building of basic construction, usually smaller in size than a house and constructed from a variety of materials such as mud, turf, branches, wood, brick, concrete or metal. Use more specific type where known.
HUT CIRCLE
Hut Walls, Stone Hut Circle
A round house indicated by the presence of a low, roughly circular bank of turf, earth or stone, which formed the base of the walls. Characteristic of the later prehistoric period. Where several occur together the term HUT CIRCLE SETTLEMENT is used.
HUT CIRCLE SETTLEMENT
Hut Group
A settlement consisting of several hut circles, either grouped together or dispersed. Characteristic of the later prehistoric period. Use specific forms where supported by the available evidence.
HUT PLATFORM
Levelled or terraced area of ground presumed to have been the site of a house or hut.
HYPOCAUST
A Roman under-floor heating system in which hot air heated by a stoked furnace, flowed through channels, created by either raising the floor on pillars of brick and tile or cutting channels into the concrete floor and tiling over them.
LAKE VILLAGE
Lake Settlement
A settlement located on or near to the shores of a lake. Buildings associated with lake villages are usually raised on piles to prevent them from being flooded.
LEGIONARY FORTRESS
Praetentura, Praetorium, Roman Fort
A large, fortified permanent Roman military base, made of timber and stone, surrounded by a rampart and ditches.
LINEAR CLEARANCE CAIRN
A long, narrow, irregularly constructed and generally unstructured mound of stones. Normally a by-product of field clearance for agricultural purposes, though prehistoric examples may include burials and other deposits.
LONG BARROW
Earthen Long Barrow
A rectangular or trapezoidal earthen mound of Neolithic date, usually accompanied by flanking or encircling ditches, and normally associated with human remains. Mound construction and associated features vary considerably in type and complexity.
LONG HOUSE
Byre House, Domus Longa, Long House
A barn and dwelling under one roof, with a cross passage between them.
LYNCHET
Lynchet, Lunchet Field System, Negative Lynchet, Positive Lynchet
A bank formed at the end of a field by soil which, loosened by the plough, gradually moves down slope through a combination of gravity and erosion.
MARKET CROSS
Market Cross Shelter, Butter Cross
A cross found in a market place.
MIDDEN
A refuse heap.
MILECASTLE
A small, walled fortlet, situated every Roman mile along the length of Hadrian’s Wall to defend a gateway allowing the passage of people and as a garrison to accommodate patrol troops.
MILEFORTLET
A free standing small turf and timber fortlet, situated every Roman mile along Hadrian’s Wall.
MULTIPLE ENCLOSURE FORT
Hillslope forts with wide spaced ramparts
MULTIVALLATE HILLFORT
Large Multivallate Hillfort, Small Multivallate Hillfort
A hillfort enclosure with defences composed of more than one bank and ditch
MUNICIPIUM
A town for citizens of Roman or Latin status with a constitution governed by charter, which if possessing only Latin rights could be promoted to the status of a colonia.
NARROW RIDGE AND FURROW.
Long parallel soil ridges less than 5 metres across separated by furrows, formed by using a heavy plough capable of turning the soil.
OPEN SITE
Palaeolithic Open Site
A Palaeolithic or Mesolithic occupation site, excluding occupations of caves and rock shelters. Evidence for occupation may include traces of hearths and other structures.
OPPIDUM
Belgic Oppidum, Territorial Oppidum
An imprecise term used to describe large Iron Age settlements of town-like proportions.
PALISADE
An enclosure of stakes driven into the ground, sometimes for defensive purposes.
PALISADED ENCLOSURE
An enclosed settlement surrounded by a single or double row of close-set timbers embedded in a foundation trench, without ditches or banks.
PALISADED HILLTOP ENCLOSURE
A small, defended settlement dating to the Early Iron Age, located on spurs, promontories or hilltops. The defences are marked by single or double trenches which originally held substantial palisades.
PALISADED HOMESTEAD
A small, defensive settlement, usually consisting of one dwelling and ancillary buildings, surrounded by a palisade.
PALISADED SETTLEMENT
A settlement site enclosed within a timber palisade
PIT DEFINED ENCLOSURE
An enclosure where the boundary consists of a line of discrete pits, as opposed to a continuous ditch. Use with a term that describes the shape of the monument.
PLOUGH MARKS
The subsoil traces of cultivation, presumed to have been caused by the use of a plough to till the soil.
PREACHING CROSS
A cross, erected on a highway or in an open place, at which monks and others used to preach.
PROMONTORY FORT
A defensive enclosure created by constructing one or more lines of ramparts across a neck of land, in order to defend, or restrict access to, a spur or promontory, either inland or on the coast.
RAMPART
A protective earthen mound, often the main defence of a fortification.
RETENTURA
The rear part of a Roman fort, where barrack accommodation, stables and stores were situated. Use with wider site type where known.
RIDGE AND FURROW
Rig And Furrow
A series of long, raised ridges separated by ditches used to prepare the ground for arable cultivation. This was a technique, characteristic of the medieval period.
RINGWORK
A defensive bank and ditch, circular or oval in plan, surrounding one or more buildings.
RINGWORK AND BAILEY
An enclosure within a bailey which contained a keep and sometimes took the place of a motte.
ROUND
A small, Iron Age/Romano-British enclosed settlement found in South West England.
ROUND HOUSE (DOMESTIC)
Circular structure, normally indicated by one or more rings of post holes and/or a circular gulley, and usually interpreted as being of domestic function.
RUFUSE PIT
A pit where domestic waste material is deposited.
SCARP
The bank or wall immediately in front of and below the rampart.
SCOOPED SETTLEMENT
A settlement, usually enclosed, on a sloping hillside containing a number of oval or circular scopped house floors separated by walls or unexcavated ridges.
SEIGEWORK
Circumvallation, Civil War Defences, Civil War Siegework, Contravallation
A temporary earthwork or fortification constructed by forces laying siege to a castle or town, etc.
SHELL MIDDEN
A refuse heap of discarded shells.
SIGNAL STATION
A tall stone Roman tower surrounded by an enclosed courtyard and ditch. Used to watch for the approach of Saxon raiders and as a means of sending warning signals, to other stations.
SOUTERRAIN
An underground chamber, store room or passage.
STONE AVENUE
A monument consisting of parallel lines of standing stones, which appears to mark out an approach to another monument or monuments.
STORAGE PIT
A pit dug in the ground used to store meat, grain and other foodstuffs. A common feature of Iron Age farms.
STRIP LYNCHET
A terraced field usually found on hillsides. Comprising a flat strip of land, called the tread, and a steep, scarped lynchet or edge, called the riser.
TEMPORARY CAMP
Marching Camp, Practice Camp, Roman Camp.
A temporary overnight camp enclosed by a shallow ditch and palisade, constructed by Roman troops on campaigns or manoeuvres.
TIMBER AVENUE
A monument consisting of parallel lines of spaced post- holes which appears to mark out an approach to another monument or monuments.
TOFT
The place where a house stood or had once stood, often adjoining a garth or croft.
TOWN CROSS
City Cross
A cross erected within a town, usually funded by the inhabitants.
TOWN WALL
City Wall
A fortified wall surrounding a town or city.
TURRET
A small, rectangular tower, often built of stone and turf, located between milecastles along the length of Hadrian’s Wall.
UNENCLOSED HUT CIRCLE SETTLEMENT
Unenclosed Stone Hut Circle Settlement
A settlement with evidence for several hut circles but clearly lacking an obvious boundary. Where it is not certain whether a boundary existed or not, use HUT CIRCLE SETTLEMENT.
UNIVALLATE HILLFORT
Large Unlivallate Hillfort, Slight Univallate Hillfort
Characteristic of the later prehistoric period.
A hilltop enclosure bounded by a single rampart, usually accompanied by a ditch.
VALLUM
A flat bottomed ditch flanked by mounds running to the south of Hadrian’s Wall for much of its length, marking the boundary of the military zone.
VEXILATION FORT
Roman Vexillation Fortress
A military base normally between 20 and 30 acres in size, containing legionary and auxiliary battle units, which served as stores depots and winter quarters during campaigns.
VICUS
A district, suburb or quarter of a town or village adjacent to a fort, with the lowest legal status accorded to a built up area.
VILLAGE CROSS
A cross erected in a village.
WAYSIDE CROSS
A cross erected by the side of the road

Main Forums Guide – Glossary

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    Glossary of prehistoric features This section was compiled with the help of the English Heritage NMR record. It currently includes descriptions for th
    [See the full post at: Guide – Glossary]

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