Online atlas reveals ancient hill forts of Ireland and Britain hidden beneath your feet
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Online atlas reveals ancient hill forts of Ireland and Britain hidden beneath your feet

THE LOCATIONS of thousands of ancient hill forts across Ireland and Britain have been revealed in a new online database.

The online atlas is the work of scores of researchers from University College Cork, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Oxford, who spent five years pinpointing sites and adding them to the database.

Volunteer hill fort hunters were also key to creating the map, available here.

Their efforts have revealed that there are over 4,000 sites scattered throughout both Ireland and Britain, from well-preserved forts to crop marks.

The vast majority of the sites date to the Iron Age, from around 800 BC to the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD.

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Mayo and Cork, in western and southern Ireland respectively, were the counties with the highest prevalence of hill forts – 145 between them.

The University of Edinburgh's Prof Ian Ralston, who co-led the project, said: "Standing on a windswept hill fort with dramatic views across the countryside, you really feel like you're fully immersed in history.

"This research project is all about sharing the stories of the thousands of hill forts across Britain and Ireland in one place that is accessible to the public and researchers.”

Prof Gary Lock, from the University of Oxford, said it was important the online database was freely available to researchers and members of the public, as it can can help improve our knowledge of the ancient structures.

He added: "We hope it will encourage people to visit some incredible hill forts that they may never have known were right under their feet."

Despite their name, not all hill forts are on hills, and not all are forts, the experts said.

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Excavations show that many of the ‘hill forts’ were actually used as gathering spots for festivals and trade, and some are on low-lying land.

The researchers from Cork, Edinburgh and Oxford were funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to help locate the total 4,147 sites across Ireland and Britain.

See the ancient hill forts atlas here: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk/