• Erik Grigg

Student thesis: Phd


AbstractAcross Britain, there are over 100 possible early-medieval linear earthworks commonly termed dykes; in total, they stretch for over 400 kilometres. They vary in size from those just 100 metres in length to the famous Offa's Dyke, which is over 95 kilometres long. There have been studies of individual dykes (Noble and Gelling 1983 for example) and general discussions of the larger examples (Squatriti 2002 for example), but no systematic attempt to catalogue and analyse them all. Their size and number suggests these earthworks were probably an important aspect of early-medieval life and have the capacity to tell us a great deal about the societies that built them. Dating such earthworks is difficult even with modern archaeological techniques and, as few early-medieval written sources survive, historians have often incorrectly ascribed enigmatic dykes to this period. This present study ascertained which dykes probably belong to the early-medieval period and contains a comprehensive gazetteer of them in the appendix. It also discusses how the dykes relate to the surviving written records, how many people were involved in their construction, what were their functions and what dykes can tell us about the processes that created early-medieval Britain. It calculated that far fewer people were needed to build them than many previous studies had supposed. While some were estate boundaries and King Offa may have ordered the building of the dyke that bears his name to bolster his power, it is argued that many of these earthworks were designed to prevent raiding. The dykes were a symptom of the endemic low-intensity warfare and small-scale forays into neighbouring territories that often characterised this period.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Fouracre (Supervisor) & Nicholas Higham (Supervisor)


  • offa's dyke
  • wansdyke
  • anglo-saxon
  • dykes

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