Dating from the period 1000 to 400 BC, Cissbury was a fortified camp of nearly 80 acres.
Neolithic flint mines at CissburyLong before the construction of the fort, Cissbury had been the site of extensive flint mines. The bravery of the miners must have been extraordinary. So far several hundred tunnels and shafts have been discovered, many interlocking with one another.
The Cissbury miners crawled around on their knees hacking flints out of the chalk with deer bones.
The conditions in the mines were cramped and extremely dangerous. Several skeletons have been discovered in the mines at Cissbury, although some of these give indications of being deliberately buried after death.
Cissbury Iron Age FortThe fort at Cissbury Ring consists of a bank of several metres in height together with a deep ditch running around the top of the hill for a length of approximately 2.5 kilometres.
These defences would have been topped by a wooden wall. Even today, with modern machinery, the construction of such a huge fortification would be a massive undertaking. The amount of timber and chalk which had to be moved to create the ramparts is mind blowingly large.
Standing at Cissbury today, on top of Vineyard Hill, 184 metres above the English Channel, with the Findon valley below it is easy to understand why this was chosen as the location such an important settlement.
Cissbury lies high above the coastal plain above Worthing, close enough to the coast to give a commanding view of the comings and goings in the English Channel but high enough to make it easy to defend.
Life at CissburyThe site was big enough to allow agriculture within the fortifications. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of several apparent buildings or areas where there is evidence of human activities.
These suggest that Cissbury was inhabited well into the Roman occupation of Sussex. In the 10th century coins were issued from mints at Steyning and Chichester. Some experts think that, for a time at least, Cissbury may have been used as an emergency mint, perhaps at a time of great danger when the threat of marauding Vikings might have been in the forefront of every Saxon's mind, although examination of Cissbury itself hasn't produced any direct evidence of this.
If true, however, this means that Cissbury would have been a key place in West Sussex for around 2000 years or so.
Cissbury TodayCisbury Ring is cared for today by the National Trust and is a terrific habitat for wildlife. Adders, slow worms and lizards are relatively common here, as are rare butterflies and flowers.
There is a car park to the west of the hill and a steep walk up to the top. It is also sometimes possible to park immediately to the north of Cissbury Ring near the point where the Monarch's Way long distance path passes by.
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