A hilltop site, the term is most commonly applied to sites from the Late Bronze Age or Iron Age. The earliest hillforts date to about 1000 BC, and were followed by sites with increasingly elaborate fortifications during the 7th and 6th centuries BC. These fortifications included timber-framed ramparts and long, heavily defended entrance corridors. Later into the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC these defences gave way to more massive and intricate ramparts and entrances with outworks.

There is evidence that some hillforts were permanent settlements, but others appear to have been no more than temporary refuges.

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