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The Logistical Impossibility of Defending Maiden Castle

Maiden Castle, Britain’s largest Iron Age hill fort, has always been a subject of fascination and mystery. Its impressive size and strategic location suggest it was once a significant military stronghold. However, recent advancements in archaeological technology, specifically Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), have sparked debates about the actual feasibility of defending such a vast fortification by examining the logistical requirements necessary to sustain a large garrison here, juxtaposed with the lack of physical evidence for such activity, a new narrative emerges, challenging traditional interpretations of Maiden Castle’s historical significance. (The Logistical Impossibility of Defending Maiden Castle)

The Scale of Maiden Castle

Maiden Castle sprawls across approximately 47 acres, making it one of Europe’s most extensive hill forts. Historically, it’s been portrayed as the last stand of the Britons against the Romans, implying it once hosted a substantial military force. The sheer size of the fortification would require significant human resources to defend and maintain, not to mention the extensive support system needed to sustain such a force over prolonged periods.

Estimating Defence Manpower

Based on the fort’s perimeter, an estimated 155 soldiers per shift would be necessary to effectively guard it, assuming a strategic placement of one soldier every 10 meters. This calculation triples to 465 soldiers when considering three shifts to cover 24-hour defense, without considering the rotation of these soldiers. In comparison, the Roman town of Londinium had 1,000 soldiers to protect it and a supporting population of 30,000 people.

Logistical Support Requirements

Supporting a garrison of this size is no minor feat. Each soldier would require at least 3,000 calories daily, amounting to over 171 million monthly calories for the entire personnel. This would necessitate large-scale food provisions, including grains and meat, which would require extensive storage and preservation facilities.

 Defending Maiden Castle
The Logistical Impossibility of Defending Maiden Castle 4

Water Supply Challenges

One of the most critical logistical requirements is water. For Maiden Castle’s estimated population of 1910 individuals (including soldiers, support staff, and their families), about 745,950 litres of water would be needed monthly – this equates to at least 15 large deep wells. Historical accounts and archaeological evidence must show substantial water sources, such as wells or water management systems, to support this figure.

The Missing Wells

However, LiDAR scans, which are highly effective at identifying even minute changes in landscape and topography, have not revealed evidence of the necessary 15 wells. The absence of such crucial infrastructure raises significant doubts about the sustained military use of Maiden Castle at the scale often depicted in historical narratives.

Livestock and Food Production

The logistics of feeding a large garrison would also involve livestock management. Approximately 516 animals (2 -3 acres) would be required monthly for the meat supply alone, necessitating extensive grazing areas, enclosures, and management systems, none of which have been identified in the LiDAR data.

Manufacturing Weapons and Armour

A garrison’s effectiveness also depends on its ability to arm itself. Producing weapons and armour would require workshops, forges, and considerable quantities of raw materials, along with skilled craftsmen. The fort’s defence would necessitate a continuous supply of spears, arrows, and protective gear. Yet, there is no archaeological evidence of such industrial activity on a scale that the theoretical number of defenders would demand.

maiden castle
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Lack of Residential Structures

Moreover, the housing needs (min. 250 structures) for a population this large would be substantial. If Maiden Castle were as populated and active as theorised, we would expect to find numerous residential structures. Yet, archaeological digs and surveys, including LiDAR imaging, have only identified a handful of houses to date, casting further doubt on the historical narratives of a densely populated fort.

The Problem of Evidence

The discrepancy between the logistical requirements for sustaining a significant military presence at Maiden Castle and the lack of physical evidence supporting such activities presents a profound challenge to traditional interpretations. The absence of infrastructure necessary for water, food, and weapon production suggests that either Maiden Castle was not primarily a military fort at the scale often imagined or our understanding of its historical role needs significant revision.

Alternative Theories

It’s possible that Maiden Castle served a different function, perhaps more to do with trading and hence the massive ditches that would have been moated in the past rather than a continuously manned military fortress. This would align more closely with the archaeological evidence, or lack thereof, and help explain the absence of extensive military infrastructure.

Conclusion

The enigma of Maiden Castle reflects the complexities of archaeological interpretation and the importance of integrating new technologies like LiDAR with traditional archaeological methods. The emerging picture is that the logistical viability of Maiden Castle as a large-scale military fortress is not supported by the physical evidence currently available. This case serves as a reminder of archaeological research’s dynamic and evolving nature, where new tools can significantly alter our understanding of the past.

Final Thoughts

As we uncover more about ancient sites like Maiden Castle, it is crucial to remain open to new interpretations and theories that might differ significantly from traditional views. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Still, it does require us to question and reassess historical assumptions, ensuring our understanding of the past is as accurate as possible.

Further Reading

For information about British Prehistory, visit www.prehistoric-britain.co.uk for the most extensive archaeology blogs and investigations collection, including modern LiDAR reports.  This site also includes extracts and articles from the Robert John Langdon Trilogy about Britain in the Prehistoric period, including titles such as The Stonehenge Enigma, Dawn of the Lost Civilisation and the ultimate proof of Post Glacial Flooding and the landscape we see today.

Robert John Langdon has also created a YouTube web channel with over 100 investigations and video documentaries to support his classic trilogy (Prehistoric Britain). He has also released a collection of strange coincidences that he calls ‘13 Things that Don’t Make Sense in History’ and his recent discovery of a lost Stone Avenue at Avebury in Wiltshire called ‘Silbury Avenue – the Lost Stone Avenue’.

Langdon has also produced a series of ‘shorts’, which are extracts from his main body of books:

The Ancient Mariners

Stonehenge Built 8300 BCE

Old Sarum

Prehistoric Rivers

Dykes ditches and Earthworks

Echoes of Atlantis

Homo Superior

Mysteries of the Oldest Boatyard Uncovered

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