Bronze Age and Iron Age structures in Romano-British place-names
1.1 This study is concerned with the identification within Romano-British place-names of elements which refer to man-made Bronze Age or Iron Age structures. The study will use only compound place-names which include hill-summit elements, that is to say elements which include the letter d (which means 'summit' in Celtic topographical place-names) qualified by a hill-letter, where the latter may itself be qualified by b or t meaning 'high' and/or c or g meaning 'steep'. (The use of these letters in topographical place-names is explained in Home/Chapter 1).
1.2 It should be noted here that the normal chronological order of the hill-letters explained in Chapter 1 appears to be n1, s, m, r, l1, n2, l2. The last hill-letter, l2, was used by Celts who may have come to Britain at some point after about 150BC, whereas n1 to n2 were used by Celts who came to Britain at different dates prior to 150BC. The n2-people appear to have used old-style names when they arrived in Britain and to have switched over to using inversion-type names at some later date. The l2 -people appear to have used inversion-type names from the moment of their arrival, that is to say they had switched over to using inversion-type names before they came to Britain. It seems clear that the changeover from old-style to inversion-type place-names took place sometime during the second half of the second century BC (as explained in Home/Chapter 23, 6.1). For simplicity it will be assumed here that transitional place-names were coined in the ten-year period from 130BC to 120BC, that old-style place-names and place-name elements were coined prior to 130BC and that inversion-type place-names and name-elements were coined after 120BC. (The terms ‘transitional place-names’, ‘old-style place-names’ and ‘inversion type place-names’ are explained in Home/Chapter 2).
1.3 It needs to be borne in mind that whilst the Celtic topographical place-names discussed below were applied to Roman forts or Romano-British settlements they are of course Celtic topographical names, and we cannot always be sure whether they are simply topographical names applied to features of the landscape or were actually Celtic place-names, i.e. the names of places where Celts lived, worked, worshipped or engaged in some other activity. In general, if there is no evidence of an Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure on the same site as a Roman post or Romano-British settlement, or in the immediate vicinity, then it is assumed here that the place-name was transferred from an Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure located somewhere else in that same region. The Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure must not be an unreasonable distance from the Roman post or Romano-British settlement and of course the topographical name must be appropriate for the actual site of the Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure. But if no such Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure is known within a reasonable distance then it is assumed here that the name was not the name of an Iron Age hillfort/settlement or Bronze Age structure.
1.4 In order to avoid weighing down the text with repetitive references it is noted here that information as to individual hillforts is taken either from the Pastscape/Heritage Gateway website or from Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017, Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.
1.5 The analysis below uses place-names taken from the Ravenna Cosmography, the Geography of Ptolemy, the Antonine Itinerary and the Notitia Dignitatum. Some names are given in a form restored by the present writer. Such names are shown in italics. The restored forms were arrived at by taking into consideration the changes to which Celtic topographical place-names were subjected by the Romans, and in some cases perhaps by the Celts themselves. For the benefit of those readers who have not read other pages of this website a concordance is provided below relating each restored name to the corresponding name known from the ancient sources. The individual names are discussed in the Alphabetical List.
Welshbury Camp (Gloucestershire)
near Pevensey (East Sussex)
east of Grantham (Lincolnshire)
east of Six Hills (Leicestershire)
Irvine (North Ayrshire)
Barcombe Hill (Northumberland): later, Chesterholm
Slack (west of Huddersfield)
Harrogate (North Yorkshire)
Harting Beacon (West Sussex)
Melandra Castle (Derbyshire)
Old Winchester Hill (Hampshire)
Baylham House (Suffolk)
Caer Gai (Gwynedd)
Yetts o' Muckhart (Clackmannanshire)
Dinsdale Park (Darlington)
Bramham (West Yorkshire)
Castle Steads, Bury: later, Manchester
Castle Hill (East Dunbartonshire): later, Bar Hill
Ham Hill/Martock (Somerset)
Bainbridge (North Yorkshire)
Badbury Rings (Dorset)
Kirkintilloch (East Dunbartonshire)
Old Church Brampton/Castlesteads (Cumbria)
Little Doward Camp (Monmouthshire): later, Monmouth
Portfield Camp (Lancashire): later, Ribchester
2 Analysis of the place-names
2.1 Compound topographical place-names where the hill-summit letter d is included in both the generic and the qualifying elements
2.1.1 Some of these names are purely old-style. The following examples come to mind:
Medi-bogldo (assuming this is the earlier form of Medibogdo)
Smedri-ladum (assuming this is the earlier form of Smetriadum), and
Five of the above eight names clearly refer to hillforts, namely Bindogladia to Weatherby Castle in Dorset, Bindolande to Barcombe Hill in Northumberland, Claducendum to Old Winchester Hill in Hampshire, Medibogldo to Kitridding hillfort in Cumbria and Nedionemedon to Castle Hill in East Dunbartonshire.
Regarding the other names the points given below may be noted.
a) Gamblidandi/Gambildandi (corresponding to Roman Habitanci at Risingham in Northumberland) may refer to the Bell Knowe round cairn, thought to date from the Bronze Age, on the summit of the hill immediately southwest of the Roman fort.
b) As to Smedriladum if there is no evidence of an Iron Age settlement on the same hilltop as the Roman fort at Bainbridge, then the Celtic settlement may have been that immediately south of the village, but an even better location would be the summit of Addlebrough, just south of Bainbridge. However, there is apparently no clear evidence of an Iron Age hillfort at that location. But there is a Bronze Age round cairn on the summit.
c) Subredobiladon is identified in Home/Chapter 22 as an early Antonine fortlet just east of Kirkintilloch on the Antonine Wall. The Wall fort itself stands on the top of raised ground, so it is possible that there had been a Celtic settlement at that location, but it is more likely that the name had been transferred to the fortlet from the multivallate hillfort at Carlston (NGR: NS 629 745), a little WNW of the Roman fort at Kirkintilloch.
It thus seems fair to conclude that old-style place-names comprising two elements including the hill-summit letter d will refer to an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.1.2 There are also place-names where the qualifying element is old-style and the generic element inversion-type, for example:
Mediboglo-dono (assuming this is the earlier form of Medibogdo)
Smedria-dunum (assuming this is the earlier form of Smetriadum)
Three of the above five place-names appear clearly to refer to hillforts, namely Cardadonecon to Harting Beacon in West Sussex, Dolocindo to Westbury Camp in Somerset and Mediboglodono to Kitridding hillfort in Cumbria.
Regarding the other place-names the points below may be noted.
a) Cerdodalia will refer to Melandra Castle in Derbyshire if there had been an Iron Age hillfort on the same site as Roman Zerdotalia. Otherwise the name will have been transferred to Melandra Castle from the nearby hillfort now known as Mouselow Castle (NGR: SK 028 955) a little to the ENE of Melandra Castle, if it is confirmed that this was indeed an Iron Age hillfort.
b) The comments made above in paragraph 2.1.1(b) regarding Smedriladum also apply to Smedriadunum.
It thus seems safe to conclude that place-names of this kind will refer to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.2 Compound place-names where the hill-summit letter d is included only in the qualifying element
2.2.1 There are a number of place-names where both the qualifying element and the generic element are old-style, for example:
Of the above nine place-names only Nemedonbala at Lydney in southwest Gloucestershire clearly refers to an Iron Age hillfort.
Regarding the other place-names the points below may be noted.
a) Bindogara appears to have been an Iron Age hillfort in North Ayrshire, most probably that at Dundonald Castle (NS 364 345) just southeast of Irvine. The topography of the site is entirely appropriate for the place-name. The Romans will have transferred the name, modified to Vindogara, to a fort/harbour which they built at Irvine itself.
b) Cindocellum appears to have been an Iron Age (or earlier) structure on the summit of Dumbarton Rock (NS 400 745) or the structure a little to the east on the summit of Sheep Hill (NS 435 744), this having been described as a Bronze Age dun inside an Iron Age hillfort, though opinions appear to differ on this point.
c) Roman Mediolano was at Whitchurch in Shropshire. There is apparently no record of any Iron Age structure in the town itself. It would appear, however, that Mediolano was not a free-standing place-name in the Iron Age but was part of the name of the hillfort now known as Bury Walls (SJ 577 274), on the eastern side of the river Roden to the south of Whitchurch. The full name of that hillfort was probably Bicsimediolano, but there may have been a qualifying b (meaning ‘high’) or c (meaning ‘steep’) between the i and the o. The composite river-name of the river Roden (such names are explained in Home/Chapter 19, 11) will have been somewhat of the form Bortobicsimediolano, though the vowels used are not important. Note that the river-letters b, r and t of the river-prefix Borto correspond respectively to the hill-letters s, m and l of Bicsimediolano. The Romans took the mediolano part of the name and applied it to the fort which they built at Whitchurch. The river-prefix was transferred to a Roman post built close to the river Roden and presumably on the road from Whitchurch to Wroxeter, the name of that post appearing as Veratino (with initial B changed to V) in Ravenna and as Rutunio (with initial B omitted) in Iter II of the Antonine Itinerary. The Romans used what was left of the composite river-name after removing mediolano, namely Bortobics, to form a name for the tribe. They omitted the initial B and the hill hill-letter s, changed the t to d and the second b to v to give the modified composite river-name Ordovic, and on the basis of this form they called the tribe the Ordovices. Note that Ptolemy assigns Mediolano to the Ordovices.
d) Roman Mediomano was the fort at Tomen-y-Mur. There is apparently no Iron Age site at that location, the nearest being the hillfort at Bryn-y-castell, Ffestiniog (SH 728 430), which is thought to date back to around 370 BC. The hillfort does indeed stand on the summit of a hill. Presumably that hillfort was called Nediomano and the Romans simply transferred the name (modified at some stage to Mediomano) to their fort at Tomen y Mur. But note that Ravenna’s Mediomano may earlier have been another Mediolano (not to be confused with the Mediolano at Whitchurch).
e) Ptolemy gives Sidumanis as a river-name but it is likely that it is a place-name transferred to a river. The Sid element appears to be correct, though the full name might earlier have been Sidumalanis or Sidumaranis (the Trinovantes used the hill-letter l, the Iceni the hill-letter r). The Atlas of Hillforts in Britain and Ireland does not indicate any hillfort in the region around Halesworth/Holton, Suffolk, the apparent location of Sidumanis.
We can thus probably increase to five the number of place-names of this form which relate to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill, but this is not high enough to conclude that names of this form normally will refer to Iron Age hillforts or Bronze Age structures on the summits of hills.
2.2.2 Then there are names where the qualifying element is old-style and the generic element is inversion-type, for example:
Seg-undio (but may have been Se-gundio)
Three of the above 10 place-names are clearly associated with hillforts, namely Lindinis at Dundon Hill in Somerset, Manduesedo at Oldbury hillfort in Warwickshire and Velosedio at Little Doward Camp in Monmouthshire.
Regarding the remaining place-names the points raised below may be noted.
a) Mandio was probably the name of the promontory fort known as Castle Steads, Bury (NGR: SD 797 130) in Greater Manchester. The fort is up on high ground adjacent the river Irwell. Note that the hill-letters m and n of Mandio correspond to the river-letters r and l in Irwell. The w in Irwell will earlier have been the river-letter b corresponding to the hill-letter s. The place-name may thus actually have been Masandion and the Romans will simply have transferred the name (changed at some point to Mantio) to the fort which they built downstream at Manchester.
b) Roman Ugueste appears to have been at Stirling, where it presumably controlled what is thought to have been the lowest crossing point of the Forth. Iron Age Mugulesde was probably a fortification on the summit of Stirling Castle Rock, though no evidence of such a structure has yet been found.
c) Roman Seguntio (a slightly modified form of Celtic Segundio) was at Caernarfon, but the name was most probably transferred to that location from one of the hillforts in the vicinity, for example Caer Carreg-y-Fran, Cwm Glo (SH 548 627), Caer Glascoed (SH 548 644), Dinas Dinorwig (SH 550 653) or Dinas Camp, y Felinheli (SH 519 671). The hill-letter n is most probably n1, as in the can element of Descecanglion (the place-name which was the basis of the tribal name Deceangli) to the east (overlooking the Conwy) and possibly Nediomano to the south.
d) Roman Virosido appears to have been at Brough-on-Noe in Derbyshire (the later of the two forts there). Sido or Sidonion may have been the Bronze Age tumulus at the summit of the hill immediately west of Brough, but may alternatively have been the Iron Age hillfort at Mam Tor, upstream from Brough.
We can thus probably increase to seven the number of place-names of this form which relate to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill, but this is not quite high enough for us to conclude that names of this form normally will refer to Iron Age hillforts or Bronze Age structures on the summits of hills.
2.2.3 And there are place-names where both the qualifying and the generic elements are inversion-type, these being:
Litucodon and Margiduno are placed in square brackets above because it is not entirely clear whether they belong here or in paragraph 2.3.3 below. Milidunum and Moriduno are placed in brackets because it is not entirely clear whether they belong here or in paragraph 2.3.2 below. Leaving aside Milidunum and Moriduno only one of the above place-names is clearly associated with a hillfort, namely Maridunum at Merlin’s Hill (later, Carmarthen). One can deduce that m is the latest hill-letter in Maridunum since Ptolemy assigns Maridunum to the Demetae tribe, and the Demetae used the hill-letter m. Milidunum at Garliford near South Molton and Moriduno at Hembury Hill, both in Devon, may well belong to this group since they were presumably in the territory of the Dumnoni and this tribe also used the hill-letter m.
Place-names where the qualifying element is a duno-type element, regardless of the hill-letter used, will thus normally not refer to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. Exceptions, such as Maridunum and possibly Milidunum and Moriduno, can probably be explained by special circumstances, in this case by the displacement of n2-people, sometime after 120BC, from the eastern side of the Severn estuary caused by expansion of the Durotriges (who used the hill-letter l1), as evidenced by the place-name Lindinis (Dundon Hill), where the l is l1 used in the inversion-type manner.
2.3 Compound place-names where the hill-summit letter d is included only in the generic element
2.3.1 In some place-names of this kind the qualifying element and the generic element are both old-style, for example:
The naco of Lindinonaco and the dertis of Omirededertis are left out of account since they are just new-fangled inversion-type elements added to the place-names by the people who already occupied the sites.
Three of the above 13 place-names appear clearly to refer to hillforts, namely Alvinundo at Welshbury Camp in Gloucestershire, Bograndium at Braco in Perth and Kinross, and Omirededertis at Ham Hill in Somerset.
Regarding the other place-names the points below may be noted.
a) Ravenna’s Cambroianna is identified on this website as the Roman fort at Slack, just west of Huddersfield. The Celtic form of the name, Cambrolanda, is a purely old-style name and so will have attained its final form earlier than 130BC, thus long, long before the Romans arrived in that area. It will therefore have been the name of an Iron Age fort/settlement, so if there had been no such fort/settlement on the actual site of the Roman fort at Slack, or in the immediate vicinity, then the name must have been transferred to Slack from an Iron Age fort/settlement somewhere else in that area, perhaps the hillfort on nearby Old Lindley Moor.
b) Regarding Carbandium at Harrogate there is apparently no record of any Iron Age structure in the town itself, but there is a possible promontory fort a little to the northeast in the Nidd Gorge. This is Gates Hill Camp (SE 332 580) on the east bank of the river. This has not yet been confirmed as a promontory fort, but if it was such a fort (and the topography of the site appears appropriate for the name) then the Romans will simply have transferred the name Carbandium (modified at some point to Carbantium) to a fort which they built in or close to Harrogate.
c) Roman Lindinonaco appears to have been a fort in the vicinity of Yetts o’ Muckhart in Clackmannanshire. Celtic Lindino was presumably the hillfort on Down Hill (NO 001 036) a little to the NNW.
In light of the above it seems proper to conclude that place-names with the structure discussed in this section are not reliable indicators of the existence of an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.3.2 In other place-names the qualifying element is old-style and the generic element inversion-type, for example:
Of the above nine place-names only three appear clearly associated with Iron Age hillforts, namely Milidunum at Garliford near South Molton and Moriduno at Hembury Hill, both in Devon, and Sorbilodoni at Badbury Rings in Dorset. But note that Milidunum and Moriduno may possibly be names like Maridunum at Merlin’s Hill, later, Carmarthen (and so belong to group 2.2.3 above), where dunum is in fact the earliest element in the place-name and the hill-letter m the latest. If this is also true of Milidunum and Moriduno then these two place-names provide some company for Mestevia at Tiverton, hitherto the only place-name in the region around Exeter, apparently the administrative centre of the Dumnoni, which indicates that the place concerned had actually been settled by the Dumnoni, who used the hill-letter m.
But here again it appears that place-names with the structure discussed in this section are not reliable indicators of the existence of an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.3.3 In other place-names both the qualifying and the generic element are inversion-type, for example:
Only one of the above three place-names is clearly associated with a hillfort, namely Vresmedenaci at Portfield Camp, southeast of Whalley in Lancashire.
There are too few place-names here to draw any sensible conclusion as to whether place-names with the structure discussed in this section do or do not normally indicate the existence of an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. It is probably best to see Vresmedenaci as a special case since the qualifying element itself comprises the inversion-type element Vr qualified by the old-style compound sm. The hillfort was presumably constructed by the people who used the hill-letter s.
2.4 It might be more instructive to look at the different place-names on the basis of the hill letters used in the place-name elements which include the hill-summit letter d. This is done below, the names being taken from the sections indicated.
2.4.1 Name-elements in hill-letter n1
2.1.1 Bindogladia, Bindolande, Nedionemedon
2.2.1 Anderelion, Bindogara, Cindocellum, Condecor, Nediomano
2.2.2 Manduesedo, Segundio
Nediomano will be left out of account since Ravenna’s Mediomano might equally well have been another Mediolano. But the other names, with the possible exception of Anderelion and Condecor, appear to refer to Iron Age hillforts. This is probably also true of Anderelion and Condecor, the points below being perhaps worth noting.
a) The Anderita of the Notitia Dignitatum appears to be derived from Ravenna’s Anderelionuba, this being a river-name transferred to a Roman fort. Thus, if we are right in identifying Anderita as the Roman fort at Pevensey then Anderelion ought to be an Iron Age hillfort on the summit of a hill, or at least up on the top of raised ground, somewhere in the catchment area of the river which reaches the sea at Pevensey. But no such hillfort is shown on the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland.
b) Condecor appears to be a straightforward compound in the hill-letters n1 and r, where Cond means ‘steep hill summit’. Again no Iron Age hillfort is shown in the vicinity of Benwell in the Atlas of Hillforts. But there are steep escarpments on both sides of the river Tyne in the Benwell area (though set back further from the Tyne on the south side of the river), so there are several locations where the topography is entirely appropriate for the name Condecor. It is thus likely that there had been a hillfort somewhere in that area and the name was simply transferred by the Romans to their Trajanic frontier fort in the Benwell area (see Home/Chapter 8, 2; Home/Chapter 20, 3). The hillfort may have been ploughed out of sight and might even today lie concealed beneath urban sprawl, somewhere north or south of the Tyne.
It thus seems fair to conclude that place-names including the hill-letter n1 in association with the hill-summit letter d will normally refer to an Iron Age hillfort or possibly a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. There is no problem with the elements Bind/Band since here the d really will be a d, but with the element Cind/Cond one needs to be careful that the d is not a modified t meaning ‘high’, for then the element would be a transitional element in the hill-letter n2. But so long as the Cind/Cond element is followed by an old-style element within the place-name then the d will be a d and the place-name as a whole will refer to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.4.2 Name elements in hill-letter s
2.2.2 Mugulesde, Velosedio, Virosido
As second or later element within the place-name
We have very few place-names here, but all of them include the hill-letter s in an old-style element. Sidumanis appears to have been a Romano-British settlement in the Halesworth/Holton area of Suffolk. There is no Iron Age hillfort in that area in the Atlas of Hillforts. Velosedio refers to a hillfort and Virosido either to the Bronze Age tumulus on the summit of the hill immediately west of Brough-on-Noe or to the hillfort on the summit of Mam Tor, upstream from Brough. Mugulesde was most probably an Iron Age fortification on the summit of Stirling Castle Rock. The place-name Manduesedo refers to a hillfort but it will have been built not by the s-people but by the n1-people who put the and element in the place-name.
It thus seems fair to conclude that old-style place-name elements including the hill-letter s in association with the hill-summit letter d will normally refer to an Iron Age hillfort or possibly a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. In the case of Sidumanis it is possible that there was a hillfort somewhere in the area around Halesworth/Holton but it has not yet been discovered, or that the form Sidumanis is incorrect, or that the writer has erred in identifying the Halesworth/Holton area as Sidumanis.
2.4.3 Name elements in hill-letter m
As second or later element within the place-name
2.1.1 Nedionemedon, Smedriladum
2.3.2 Demerosessa, Ucseludamo
Medibogldo (or perhaps Mediboglodono) refers to a hillfort. Nedionemedon and Nemedonbala also refer to hillforts, though presumably hillforts built not by the m-people but by people who used the hill-letter n1. The position with regard to Smedriladum (or perhaps Smedriadunum) is not clear. Iron Age Elconionemedo may have been a structure up on the high ground in Launceston itself, but may equally well have been a hillfort close to the Tamar in that region. Bernemedo and Ucseludamo are not obviously connected with any Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure. Roman Demerosesa was at Drumquhassle but Iron Age Demerosessa appears to have been one of two hillforts in the vicinity. The first is the hillfort known as Quinloch Muir (NS 515 813) at the top of a very steep slope dropping down to the Blane Water in Stirlingshire. The second is the Dunmore hillfort (NS 605 865) at the top of a very steep slope dropping down to the Endrick Water near Fintry, also in Stirlingshire.
In light of the above it seems fair to conclude that a place-name element including the hill-letter m in association with the hill-summit letter d is not a reliable indicator of the presence of an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.4.4 Name elements in hill-letter r
2.1.2 Cerdodalia, Cardadonecon
As second or later element within the place-name
2.3.1 Combredovio, Maboridon, Omirededertis
Cerdodalia and Cardadonecon appear to refer to hillforts. Credigone may earlier have been Credigomone (cf. Cerma and Cermium). There is apparently no record of a hillfort on the summit of the hill at Duntocher, so if the Cred element does refer to a hillfort then the name must have been transferred to Duntocher from another location in that region. There appears to be no information regarding hillforts in the vicinity of Baylham House (Combredovio) or Bramham (Maboridon), though the name Maboridon might conceivably have been transferred to Bramham from the large hillfort some six kilometres away at Barwick-in-Elmet (SE 399 376). In the case of Wall (Lutudaron) Iron Age Lutudaron may possibly have been the hillfort known as Castle Old Fort, Walsall (SK 062 033). Subredobiladon appears to have been the hillfort at Carlston, to the WNW of Kirkintilloch and Omirededertis the hillfort at Ham Hill in Somerset, but in each case the hillfort was presumably built by the previous occupants of the site.
It follows that whilst more than half of the above place-names do refer, or probably refer, to an Iron Age hillfort, nonetheless a place-name element including the hill-letter r in association with the hill-summit letter d is not a reliable indicator of the presence of an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.4.5 Name elements in hill-letter l1
As second or later element within the place-name
2.1.1 Bindogladia, Gamblidandi, Subredobiladon
2.1.2 Cerdodalia, Dolocindo
Claducendum was the hillfort on Old Winchester Hill in Hampshire. There is no dating information for this hillfort, but the hillfort may have been built by the l1-people, always assuming that there had not earlier been another old-style element in front of the Clad element in the place-name. All of the other place-names indicated above refer to a hillfort or, in the case of Gamblidandi, to a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
It thus seems fair to conclude that a place-name element including the hill-letter l1 and the hill-summit letter d will normally refer to an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
2.4.6 Name elements in hill-letter n2
2.2.2 Lindinis, Lindum, Mandio
2.2.3 Lecilodanum, Maridunum, Milidunum? Moriduno?
As second or later element within the place-name
2.1.1 Bindolande, Claducendum, Gamblidandi
2.3.1 Alvinundo, Bograndium, Cambrolanda, Carbandium, Clindum, Gambaglanda, Landini, Lindinonaco, Londinium
2.3.2 Cambroduno, Camulodono, Camuloduno, Serduno, Sorbilodoni
2.3.3 Lugunduno, Rigodunum, Vresmedenaci
There are 29 place-names in this group, 16 of them including the old-style element nd coined prior to 130BC and 13 including the inversion-type element duno/dono/dano coined after 120BC. Eight of the 16 place-names including the element nd seem quite clearly to refer to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill (Alvinundo, Bindolande, Bograndium, Claducendum, Gamblidandi, Lindinis, Lindinonaco, Mandio), as do 6 of the 13 place-names with a duno/dono/dano element (Cardadonecon, Maridunum, Milidunum, Moriduno, Sorbilodoni, Vresmedenaci).
It follows from the above that neither the nd nor the duno/dono/dano element is a reliable indicator of the presence of an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. But all of the names will of course refer to a settlement or post of some kind on the summit of a hill, or at least on the top of raised ground.
The aim of the present study was to determine whether some feature of a Celtic topographical place-name would indicate whether the place-name had been applied in the pre-Roman period to an Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill. The study was restricted to compound topographical place-names, place-names comprising a generic element, i.e. the later or latest element within the name, and a qualifying element coined earlier than the generic element. The analysis set out in section 2 above demonstrates that a compound topographical place-name will normally refer to an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill under the following circumstances:
a) the qualifying and generic elements are both old-style and both include a hill-letter associated with the hill-summit letter d;
b) the qualifying and generic elements both include the hill-summit letter d, the qualifying element is old-style and the generic element is inversion-type;
c) the qualifying element comprises an old-style element including the hill-letter s in association with the hill-summit letter d, and
d) the place-name comprises an element including the hill-letter l1 associated with the hill-summit letter d.
There is one further case where we can be almost certain that a compound topographical place-name refers to an Iron Age hillfort or a Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill, and that is where the generic element is old-style but does not include the hill-summit letter d and the qualifying element comprises the hill-letter n1 associated with the hill-summit letter d. Apparent exceptions, such as Anderelion and Condecor, are almost certainly cases where we simply have not yet discovered the Iron Age hillfort or Bronze Age structure on the summit of a hill.
Other compound topographical place-names including the hill-summit letter d may or may not refer to Iron Age hillforts or Bronze Age structures on the summit of a hill. Many do, but this is not something we can deduce from the place-names themselves.
[This page was last modified on 01 February 2024]
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