From the Great Wall of China to Hadrian’s Wall, from the Berlin Wall to Trump’s Wall – frontiers and boundaries in the past, in the present as well as into the future, are a key concern of archaeological researchers. As monuments, as projects, but also as zones of interaction and transformation, frontiers divide and connect people past and present.
This Day of Archaeology post outlined one key thing I did today relating to my archaeological interest in frontiers: sketch out plans for a new interdisciplinary journal:
Frontiers Past and Present:
The Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory
Introducing the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory
Together with colleagues in a range of institutions and organisations, in April I launched the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory – a research network for Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and Early Medieval Western Britain. Following the publication of Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s book Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain (Windgather, 2016), the aim is to support and develop new collaborative projects on the linear earthworks of the modern Anglo-Welsh border. The Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory wants to support a network of individuals, groups and organisations working to manage and investigate Britain’s largest monuments – Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke – as well as related monuments and their wider landscapes.
We are working in close dialogue with the Offa’s Dyke Association.
What is Offa’s Dyke?
Offa’s Dyke is interpreted as an intermittent linear earthwork stretching from the Wye Valley to Flintshire, associated with the Mercian Frontier of the late 8th century AD and traditionally ascribed to be work of King Offa.
What is Wat’s Dyke?
Equally significant is the lesser-known Wat’s Dyke: a linear earthwork running from Maesbury Marsh (Shropshire) to Basingwerk (Flintshire) and runs broadly parallel to Offa’s Dyke in its southern stretches. It is again regarded as a Mercian frontier work, perhaps of Offa’s successor Coenwulf, and dated to the early 9th century AD.
There are also a large number of prehistoric and early medieval ‘short dykes’, and many more undated linear earthworks, running through what was to become the English-Welsh border, and the still-undated Whitford Dykes are sometimes associated with Offa’s Dyke.
Aims of the ODC
The ODC hopes to see future research projects investigating the dates, compositions, design and functions of these linear earthworks, as well as their biographies, landscape settings, associations with other ancient sites, monuments, routes and rivers.
A key focus of the ODC will be exploring the relationships of the dykes to the creation and fluctuation of Mercia’s western frontier. In doing so, the relationships with the broader tapestry of early medieval communities and polities in western Britain during the Early Middle Ages is essential.
Moreover, the ODC is interested in research exploring the ‘prehistory’ of the dykes and communities living in and around the landscapes of the English-Welsh border prior to their construction in the Early Middle Ages. Likewise, the life-histories of these monuments down to the present day is also a focus of future enquiry supported by the ODC.
Furthermore, the ODC aims to focus on the future of these monuments: their heritage conservation, management and interpretation for local communities and visitors from across these islands and from around the globe.
In addition to ongoing dialogues regarding research projects up and down the line of these linear earthworks, we have three future events planned in 2017:
- Following on from the success of the Shrewsbury workshop, we aim to hold a second ODC workshop at the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton in October (dates and details to be confirmed)
- A University of Chester student-led day conference on 13th December 2017 at the Grosvenor Museum Chester: Frontiers & Archaeology: Past & Present
- We have a session at the 39th annual Theoretical Archaeology Group conference at Cardiff University, 18th-20th December 2017. The call for papers is still open.
Frontiers Past and Present – Journal of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory
So how does this all relate to the Day of Archaeology? Well, today I firmed up a provisional idea for another dimension of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory‘s work: a new open-access journal.
I’m looking for funding and for a publisher and I’ve had fruitful and helpful discussions in both regards. The provisional idea is to create a journal focusing on heritage conservation, management and interpretation, history and archaeology of linear earthworks and other frontier works. The focus will be on Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke and other early medieval linear earthworks. However, there will be scope to invite and incorporate a range of studies regarding the biographies and landscape contexts of frontiers, in both the past and the present, from Britain, Europe and beyond.
All suggestions warmly welcome, especially regarding potential publishers and funding sources!