During the Iron Age (nearly 3,000 years ago) the South Dorset Ridgeway was dotted with farmsteads along its length. However it would have been the hillforts that would have been far more visible,as they are today.
There are four of these great earthen constructions within the project area including the one of the largest known in Europe, Maiden Castle.
Most archaeologists agree that they were built to express the power and prestige of the local Durotrigian tribe leaders. People did live in them, and some like Chalbury were very densely populated. For wider information about Hillforts in Wessex look at this English Heritage publication from 2006.
Maiden Castle is probably best known as an impressive Iron Age Hillfort, but it has a much longer history. Originally the site of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure and bank barrow it was developed into a small hillfort, before being expanded to its eventual size, big enough to hold 50 football pitches.
The remains of an Iron Age hillfort close to Dorchester. Excavation has uncovered slight evidence of Mesolithic to Bronze Age occupation of the site and Roman buildings. The Roman Aqueduct for Dorchester passes close by.
The hillfort near Sutton Poyntz was probably the first in the area. The ramparts built for defence, were faced with vertical limestone slabs both inside and out.
You can still see the footprints of eleven round houses where people once lived inside this hillfort.