Wizards, Dragons and Giants: Creating Motte Castles in an English Landscape

Author(s): Elaine Jamieson

Year: 2017


Medieval motte castles are large flat-topped earth and stone mounds, often coupled with an enclosure or bailey, and represent a characteristic component of the British landscape. Mottes often dominate their immediate surroundings, with many remaining visually impressive monuments to this day. Although their creation often involved substantial landscape change, it is becoming increasingly clear that continuity could also be maintained. Many mottes were placed at points in the landscape with pre-existing ritual significance, as seen through the adaptation of extant Saxon town defences, the reuse of Iron-Age hillforts, and the re-appropriation of prehistoric mounds. The transformation of such sites would have re-shaped peoples’ perception of place, serving not only to create continuities with the past, but also to facilitate a re-ordering of the broader social and symbolic world. A ritual dimension may also have been ascribed to the creation of the motte castle, with levels of significance attached to the processes surrounding its construction. This paper will draw on results from the Leverhulme Trust funded project Extending Histories: From Medieval Mottes to Prehistoric Round Mounds, which is investigating the archaeology and history of monumental mounds in the English landscape.

Cite this Record

Wizards, Dragons and Giants: Creating Motte Castles in an English Landscape. Elaine Jamieson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429666)


Castles Mounds Ritual

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14475