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New revelations about Offa’s Dyke revealed

9 March 2016

Offa's Dyke
Title image, Offa's Dyke

Fifty years after Sir Cyril Fox’s seminal work, a new major study of the ancient linear earthwork Offa’s Dyke is to be launched at Cardiff University.

Published in 1955, Sir Cyril Fox’s Offa’s Dyke remains one of the great works on the monument commonly recognised as the boundary between England and Wales. How or when Britain’s largest linear monument was built is still not fully understood, despite a century of study. Forever linked in name with Anglo-Saxon king Offa (757 - 796), the 177 mile-long earthwork has remained an enigma.

In the new study Offa’s Dyke – Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth Century Britain authors Keith Ray and Ian Bapty offer a fresh perspective. Following a decade of study and conservation practice, they argue that the massive earthwork is paralleled only in Charlemagne’s contemporary European empire as a mark of frontier.  They contend that the early Welsh Marches frontier is the most dramatic device of hegemony or control deployed by the Mercian kings.

Powerful landscape surveillance advantage at key locations, undocumented building practices and design uniformity are revealed along the entirety of the popular walking route. Exploring the Mercian and English context for its creation, the book identifies key political places which may have pre-existed the earthwork.

Sir Cyril Fox was Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff in the 1920s and went on to become Director of the National Museum of Wales before his retirement in 1948. Ties with the University continue to this day through the Sir Cyril Fox Fund, enabling Archaeology students to undertake research and visit sites in Britain and overseas.

Head of Archaeology and Conservation Dr Alan Lane said: ‘The publication of the new volume just 50 years after Fox’s seminal work allows Cardiff University to recognise the role Sir Cyril Fox had in the creation of archaeology in the University and the National Museum, and the generosity of his wife Lady Aileen Fox and her sons in supporting  Cardiff students in  projects in Wales and the wider world.’

Offa’s Dyke – Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth Century Britain by Keith Ray and Ian Bapty is published by Oxbow Books. The launch event takes place in Cardiff University’s Main Building on Wednesday 9 March from 5pm.

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