In Season 6 of The Walking Dead, Rick’s group and Alexandria encounter Paul Rovia (aka ‘Jesus’) and accompany him to his settlement: Hilltop.
Jesus explains the origins of ‘Hilltop’. The walls came from a materials yard for a power company, he tells them. Meanwhile, the people and trailers moved in from a FEMA camp.
Why there? They were drawn to the historic dwelling known as Barrington House. Gifted to the state in the ’30s, it became a living history museum.
Jesus is asked how people found out about the place?
Every elementary school for 50 miles used to come here for field trips. This place was running a long time before the modern world built up around it. I think people came here because they figured it would keep running after the modern world broke down.
Jesus elaborates that the windows have a great view in all directions: perfect for security.
So the prospect and the age, authority and prominence of a high-status house provide the basis for attracting a settlement in the post-apocalyptic age. The antiquity of the site is a draw, anchoring people in the past and the sense of potential survival in times of difficulty.
This poses interesting questions that have archaeological resonances, as for the end of Roman Britain when selected pre-Roman hillforts appear to be reused and refortified. As well as martial and political dimensions to this reutilisation, there have been suggestions of an ideological dimension: a rejection of Rome and a return to a ‘tribal’ way of life. TWD offers a further option to us in our interpretative frameworks for the reutilisation of ancient earthworks.
Could the ‘draw’ of such defensible ancient monuments have offered practical and emotional security in their very antiquity at a time of societal crisis? Therefore, does The Walking Dead hold lessons for early medieval archaeology?