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The multiple ramparts of the British Camp hillfort in Herefordshire

A rampart in fortification architecture is a length of bank or wall forming part of the defensive boundary of a castle, hillfort, settlement or other fortified site. It is usually broad-topped and made of excavated earth or masonry or a combination of the two.[1][2]

Early fortifications

Many types of early fortification, from prehistory through to the Early Middle Ages, employed earth ramparts usually in combination with external ditches to defend the outer perimeter of a fortified site or settlement.[2] Hillforts, ringforts or "raths" and ringworks all made use of ditch and rampart defences, and of course they are the characteristic feature of circular ramparts. The ramparts could be reinforced and raised in height by the use of palisades. This type of arrangement was a feature of the motte and bailey castle of northern Europe in the early medieval period.

Types of rampart

Earth ditch and rampart defences on the Ipf near Bopfingen, Germany

Reconstructed pfostenschlitzmauer of the oppidum at Finsterlohr, Creglingen, Germany

The composition and design of ramparts varied from the simple mounds of earth and stone, known as dump ramparts, to more complex earth and timber defences (box ramparts and timberlaced ramparts), as well as ramparts with stone revetments.[2] One particular type, common in Central Europe, used earth, stone and timber posts to form a pfostenschlitzmauer or "post-slot wall". Vitrified ramparts were composed of stone that was subsequently fired to increase its strength.[2]

Later fortifications

As castle technology evolved during the Middle Ages and Early Modern times, ramparts continued to form part of the defences. But now they tended to consist of thick walls with crenellated parapets.[3] Fieldworks, however, continued to make use of earth ramparts due to their relatively temporary nature.

Archaeological significance

As well as the immediate archaeological significance of such ramparts in indicating the development of military tactics and technology, these sites often enclose areas of historical significance that point to the local conditions at the time the fortress was built.[2]


  1. Friar, Stephen (2003). The Sutton Companion to Castles, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2003, p. 241. ISBN 978-0-7509-3994-2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Darvill, Timothy (2008). Oxford Concise Dictionary of Archaeology, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, p. 376. ISBN 978-0-19-953404-3.
  3. Curl, James Stevens (2006). Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2nd ed., OUP, Oxford and New York, p. 622. ISBN 978-0-19-860678-9.

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