The prehistoric hillfort at Ham Hill is the largest to have been constructed in Britain with near to three miles of Iron Age ramparts and ditches enclosing an area of 88.1 hectares . Owing to the substantial size of the hillfort it has been difficult to gain an understanding of its development and use as well as of the changing lives of the communities who have inhabited the hill’s crest since at least the Mesolithic period, over 10,000 years ago. Whilst there have been a number of small scale archaeological investigations at Ham Hill since the early nineteenth century, almost 40% of the hillfort’s interior has been lost to quarrying of the hill’s prized Ham Stone, making it difficult to provide a broader context to the results of these investigations.
Today the hillfort is protected by English Heritage as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (no. 100). However, Ham Stone is required for the conservation of many of the historic buildings within the region, for which consent has been granted to extend the ‘Ham Hill Stone Quarry’ on the condition that a full 3-year programme of archaeological investigation is carried out in advance. This research project is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge Archaeological Unit and the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cardiff, with a particular emphasis on training students and local community involvement. The project is therefore a unique opportunity to shed some light on this enigmatic landscape and hillforts in general.