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Dykes

  • Cyril Fox
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Dykes have been described as travelling, running or linear earthworks. All these terms express their essential character, that of a bank, usually of earth but occasionally of loose stone, extending for a considerable distance across country. The existence of a bank presupposes an adjacent ditch from which its material was derived, and the descriptive term Ditch is as common as Dyke in the nomenclature of linear earthworks. Both terms have indeed a common origin.

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1 There are, of course, a number of minor banks and ditches to which the above definition does not apply. Some of these are probably the boundaries of prehistoric settlements; some delimit agricultural land from moor—or down—land; others define medieval parks, or coppices; such are not considered in this paper.

2 A fifth dyke, Black Ditches, to the north of the Devil’s Ditch, should perhaps be regarded as part of the system (see p. 139).

3 Apart from a doubtful extension of the Fleam, shown on the map by broken lines, recently revealed by air-photography.

4 Hereabouts the scarp, from crest of rampart to floor of ditch, measures 60 feet.

5 I am indebted to the Editor of ANTIQUITY for additions to my list. Those interested in the subject will find references to others in Allcroft’s Earthwork of England, PP- 494-522.

6 There is reason to suppose that the continuity of the Cambridgeshire ditches was unbroken by road-gaps. Travellers along the Icknield Way probably crossed, under surveillance, a wooden gangway. In the case of other dykes the differentiation between original and later crossing-points should be demonstrable by excavation; in respect to the original openings a causeway of undisturbed subsoil should be present on the line of the ditch; in the case of later gaps cut by road-maker or farmer, the ditch would be filled in— ‘made ground’.

page 150 note * Mr Lethbridge’s report will appear in the Camb. Antiq. Soc. Comm.

7 Tacitus, , Annals, n. 19.

8 Fox, Arch. Camb. Reg., p. 90.

9 Archaeologia Cambrensis 1928, p. 103.

page 154 note * The Editor desires to acknowledge the courtesy of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, and the Cambridge University Press in lending blocks to illustrate this paper.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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