Offa's Dyke: Landscape & Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain [Paperback]

Keith Ray (Author); Ian Bapty (Author)

ISBN: 9781905119356 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2016 | Language: English 464p, H246 x W185 (mm) 200 illus

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Offa's Dyke


The massive ancient linear earthwork that provides the sole commemoration of an extraordinary Anglo-Saxon king and that gives its name to one of our most popular contemporary walking trails remains an enigma. Despite over a century of study, we still do not fully understand how or when Britain’s largest linear monument was built, and in recent years the views of those who have studied the Dyke have diverged even about such basic questions as its physical extent and purpose.

This book offers a fresh perspective on Offa’s Dyke arising from over a decade of study and of conservation practice by its two authors. It explores the specifically Mercian and English context for its creation, and identifies ‘political places’ along its route that may have pre-existed it. As well as reviewing past studies of the Dyke and debates about its character, the authors identify build practices not previously noted. They demonstrate the fundamental uniformity of the design of the earthwork, including in Gloucestershire, and show how it facilitated surveillance of the landscape at key locations. Offa’s Dyke is explained as the most dramatic among several devices of hegemony deployed by the Mercian regime of the late eighth/early ninth century, and as the key element in an early Welsh Marches frontier paralleled in Charlemagne’s contemporary European empire.

Table of Contents

On Offa’s Dyke (Gladys Mary Coles) vi
Acknowledgements vii
Preface ix
Foreword: Christopher Catling (Secretary, Royal Commission on
the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales) xi
Prefatory notes xiii
Introduction: Landscape and hegemony: Offa’s Dyke in dual perspective 1
1 Offa’s Dyke in profile: character, course and controversies 10
2 Studying Offa’s Dyke: a cumulative inheritance 55
3 The Mercians: a border history 93
4 Placing the Dyke in the landscape 122
5 The structure of the Dyke 164
6 Building and operating the Dyke 214
7 In a frontier landscape 254
8 The material of Mercian hegemony 298
9 Offa’s Dyke: power in the landscape 334
Epilogue: Reconnecting Offa’s Dyke in the twenty-first century 365
Appendix: Selected Offa’s Dyke profiles 377
Notes 381
List of Figures 427
Bibliography 430
Index 439

Reviews & Quotes

"There is something for everybody in Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s 'Offa’s Dyke'."
Paolo Squatriti
Antiquity (01/02/2017)

"…the book’s value lies not only in the synthesis of past work it offers, the new field observations it identifies, and the ideological context it explores, but in providing a foundation for a new generation of scholars to test and critique the interpretations that the book contains."
Howard Williams
Archaeologia Cambrensis (07/09/2017)

"This is a book which represents a meticulous yet engaging study of an important and imposing field monument in which the archaeological details of its design and its historical context, its local and regional landscape setting, as well as its historical context are all combined in a way which decidedly raises the bar for landscape and other historians — of any period."
Jeremy Haslam
Landscape History (16/05/2017)

"This is an important contribution to the ongoing study on Offa's Dyke, a valuable successor to Cyril Fox's British Academy volume… [the authors] have certainly provided us with considerably more to think about."
Bob Silvester
Medieval Settlement Research Vol 31 (24/01/2017)

"As might be expected of a book of this calibre, it provides the reader with more questions than answers to an enigma that physically divided two nation-states and two landscapes. It is a must-have for those researching the early medieval archaeology of the frontier lands of the Welsh Marches."
George Nash
Current Archaeology (05/07/2017)

"This book is a welcome and substantial addition to the literature on Offa’s Dyke… The book is attractively designed with numerous excellent maps and with a large number of photographs (many of them colour), the majority of high quality; it is clearly written and very reasonably priced."
Michael Hare
Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society (30/10/2017)

"...this new book has set out an exciting research agenda that addresses not just archaeological questions, but bigger issues to do with such matters…"
Chris Catling
Current Archaeology

"…a landmark in Anglo-Saxon archaeology and field survey… [Offa’s Dyke] was an impressive achievement for its time, and so is this book."
Medieval Archaeology
Medieval Archaeology (17/10/2017)

"This is an important work every student and scholar of the early middle ages should tackle and interrogate."
Howard Williams
British Archaeology (05/12/2016)

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