When were Neolithic ditched enclosures built?
Most European Prehistoric ditched enclosures were constructed during the period known as the Neolithic, but they appeared in various parts of Europe at different times. The tradition continued through the last part of the Neolithic before the Bronze Age, which is called Late Neolithic in some contexts, and Copper Age or Chalcolithic in others. In the areas of Central-Western Europe where ditched enclosures were built, this means that their chronology extends from approximately 5500 BCE in Central Europe to the last few centuries of the 3rd millenium BCE in regions such as Iberia and Britain; that is between 7500 and 5000 years ago.
How do we know that these monuments were erected by Neolithic peoples? They almost invariably show characteristics that point in that direction. Commonly, the buildings are found in association with material remains such as artefacts, animal and human bones, and so on. For example, the pit where a big stone was placed may contain the remains of ceramic vessels or animal bones, so it is highly likely that these items were already there but not long before the monument was constructed. These elements can frequently be dated, either directly, through the use of techniques like radiocarbon dating, or indirectly. Sometimes there are no preserved materials to analyse, but the locations in the landscape, the building techniques and other aspects suggest close relationships between the undated buildings and those already dated to the Neolithic. The repetition of this process thousands of times, after decades of research in many places, with thousands of dated samples, makes the assertion that most of these monuments are of Neolithic age a very solid one.
Timeline of Neolithic European ditched enclosures
The absolute and relative position of ditched enclosures in time is indicated in the following timeline. Please note that dates contained in it are approximate and constantly subject to revision. Click on the image or download it to see all the details.