[If the text below uses any of the terms ‘hill-letter’, ‘river-letter’, ‘old-style name’, ‘transitional name’ and ‘inversion-type name’ a reader who is not familiar with those terms may wish to refer briefly to ‘The Celtic names of hillforts’, where an explanation of those terms is given].



The Celtic names of hillforts




Location: southeast of Cambridge

OS map reference:  TL 494 534                                                 

Celtic name:  Libonde

Source:  Antonine Itinerary (Iter V) - Duroliponte


This is a circular multivallate hillfort built on the summit of raised ground forming part of the Gog Magog hills. A first rampart is thought to have been built during the 4th century BC, a second, inner rampart during the 1st century AD (see, for example, the Pastscape website of Historic England).

The Celtic name of the hillfort will have been Libonde, the Antonine Itinerary form showing the common changes of bp and dt. The Celtic name is a compound in the hill-letters l and n, where the bond element means ‘high hill summit’. It is not clear whether the n is n1 or n2, but if the bond element refers to the early fort then the n is presumably n1.  The initial L of Libonde is then used in an inversion-type manner, though it is not clear whether it is l1 or l2. It is also possible that the n is n2, in which case the initial L may be l1 used in an old-style manner or l2 used, as is usual for this hill-letter, in an inversion-type manner. But most probably Libonde is an old-style compound in l1 and n2, indicating that the hillfort had been occupied by the Trinovantes but was taken over by the Catuvellauni.

The Romans incorporated the name of the Celtic hillfort in the name of their new town at Cambridge – this was Duroliponte, which means ‘Roman new town near (the Celtic settlement called) Libonde’.


[This page was last modified on 11 November 2019]