The hill fort with an acropolis on Vladař Hill (literally meaning "Ruler", 693 metres above sea level) is situated on the table mountain plateau at a superelevation of 230 metres above the valley of the Střela River in the cadastral territory of the municipalities of Záhořice and Vladořice at a distance of 8 kilometres from the burial site in Manětín – Hrádek. The fortified settlement on the hilltop is distinguished by a sophisticated fortification system, which extends to the very foot of the table mountain and creates a self-contained complex comprising several independently fortified settlements (i.e. the acropolis, segmented fortified outer settlement). The entire fortification system covering an area of approximately 115 hectares was apparently built in several phases over a longer period of time. The Střela River flows around the north and northwest side of the hill fort and a nameless brook flows below the southwest foot of the hill before its confluence with the Střela River under the hill fort.
The highest point on the summit of the table mountain provides a circular view of the surrounding countryside. The vast acropolis spreading over an area of approximately 13 hectares had its own water source. It was located in the lowermost part of the acropolis and it had the shape of a large (45 x 30 metres), artificially excavated cistern collecting precipitation water. The remains of the destroyed peripheral wall surrounding the acropolis now resemble a rampart of huge basalt blocks cut from the rocky bedrock of the table mountain. Fortification in the northern part of the settlement was destroyed by a massive fire as evidenced by numerous slaggy melted stones inside the crumbled rampart.
An archaeological probe carried out on the site in 2003 intercepted several developmental phases of the rampart construction. The youngest fortification phase comprising of an inner oak-beam structure seemed to be the largest and it reached a height of almost eight metres, whereas the volume of destruction triangles suggests a height of more than four metres. From the point of view of stratigraphy, the oldest structure on the site was a foundation pit for a wooden column. A sample of charred wood was collected from the pit for radiocarbon dating and this determined the age at approximately 1400 B.C., which is a time interval corresponding to the beginning of the Tumulus Culture in the Middle Bronze Age. Therefore, the find most likely represents a relic of the oldest fortification of the plateau on Vladař Hill.
The acropolis settlement layer at the rear face of the rampart contained pottery from the Late Bronze Age, the Late Hallstatt Period, and the beginning of the Early La Tene Period. We can thus presume that several ramparts belonging to the appropriate settlement horizons of the subject time period were built on the same site. The inner area of the acropolis is characterised by two mounds (elevation points 688 and 693 metres) and a number of terraces possibly dating back to the Middle Ages and Modern Times, whereas only some of them utilised the remains of the older ramparts. Paths led across steep slopes and entered the acropolis through three jaw-shaped gates with arms bent inside.
The gate in the western slope of the table mountain is located at the upper mouth of a wide natural glen clenched between two protruding spurs of the plateau with the acropolis. Several hollow paths, preserved to this day in the terrain, merge in the glen. The wings of the jaw-shaped gate are formed by two massive stone ramparts and an advanced and relatively wide moat is located outside the entrance. The gate at the northern edge of the acropolis is also located in a wide terrain depression, through which the main access path from the north slope leads. The wings of the jaw-shaped gate are again formed by massive stone ramparts; however, there are no traces of an advanced moat outside the entrance.
The third entrance to the acropolis leads through a gate in the south. There is a gap in the outer rampart and both short jaw-shaped arms of the gate bend inside. The path led to the gate from the southwest, crossways to the slope of the table mountain and along the inner side of the hardly traceable fortification in the slope, which forms a continuous belt built from smaller stones and connects the fortification of the outer settlement with the fortification of the acropolis. The overall length of the acropolis circumvallation is 1,675 metres.
The extensive and largely segmented outer settlement (approximately 99 hectares) is situated along the northern and southern foot of the table mountain and it is defined by the main circumvallation of the fortification system, which is formed by two wide parallel moats, partly adjoined by a rampart on the inner side. The width of the circumferential moats ranges between 15 and 20 metres and the distance between them spans 7 to 10 metres. The height difference between the rampart crown and the bottom of the moat is 13 metres. The outer settlement is segmented by massive ramparts and moats into four separated spaces connected by gates. The main entrance gate into the entire fortified hilltop settlement is located there.
Along the southwest perimeter of the outer settlement, which enables the easiest access to the hill fort, the main defence line formed by two parallel moats is reinforced by a massive inner rampart. Moreover, a fortified fore field (with an area of approximately three hectares) can be found outside the perimeter moats and is protected by a 500-metre rampart. Within the framework of a geodetic survey of the fortification system performed in 2002, a cross section of the rampart has been documented. It indicates that the examined rampart conceals the remains of up to four subsequent fortifications and evidences the complex development of the external fortification system surrounding the outer settlement. It was not possible to determine the precise age of any of the fortification phases due to the absence of demonstrable finds because the hill fort was not subject to any major archaeological research in the past.
The available older findings discovered at the outer settlement and the acropolis were the result of small-scale archaeological probes or collections and these merely supported the existence of a settlement in the Late Bronze Age, the Hallstatt Period, and the beginning of the Early La Tene Period, as well as in the successive Early and Late La Tene Period and in the Early Middle Ages. A report on the outer settlement from 1802 refers to the discovery of skeleton graves containing pottery in the village of Záhořice. The allegedly Early Latenian bronze clip found on the slope of Vladař Hill around 1900 disappeared. In 1980, numerous ceramic fragments, including fragments of pottery made on a potter's wheel, were found during the deepening of a pond in the western part of the outer settlement. The finds can be dated to the Early and Late La Tene Period.
Today, we know that the digging work in the pond and likewise the original foundation of the pond in the wetland at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s disrupted the sophisticated and as yet unexplained system of wooden chambers formed by bulky oak planks and sealed with grey-yellow clay. A large number of previously recorded finds were collected at the acropolis, such as a flint blade, two fragments of earthen weights, and fragments of primeval pottery. A quite remarkable finding is a small cast bronze statue representing a stylized figure of a man wearing a Negau-type helmet, which was discovered by the numismatist Eugen Pochitonov at the acropolis in the early 1950s, allegedly in waste soil on a small platform behind the west gate. The bronze figure probably comes from northern Italy or the eastern Alps and it was a part of a possibly wooden, conical tripod pyxis made according to a bronze Etruscan model.
The chance find from the acropolis obviously belongs to a group of luxury items dating back to the later Hallstatt and Early La Tene Period that point to apparent links to the Mediterranean. Archaeological probes at the acropolis were carried out near the cistern by František Prošek and later by Jiří Klsák and these yielded numerous fragments of Late Bronze Age, Hallstatt, Latenian and medieval ceramics and loam. A more systematic research of the hill fort began in 2002 with the geodetic survey of the fortification system performed by Miloslav Chytráček from the Archaeological Institute in Prague.
In the following years, the Archaeological Institute aided by colleagues from the Karlovy Vary Regional Museum, members of the Vladař Civic Society and associates from the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň, conducted a research of the circumvallation and the disrupted segments in the eastern and western part of the acropolis. At the same time, Petr Pokorný, an archaeobotanist from the Archaeological Institute, presented initial information on the stratigraphy and the character of the filling of an oval water tank in the middle of the Vladař plateau. The tank mud sediments have preserved valuable information about the events which took place at the hill fort from 400 B.C. up to the present.