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  • Nicky Garland

The Dane’s Dyke - East Riding of Yorkshire

The Dane’s Dyke is a large linear earthwork constructed on the Flamborough Peninsula in the east Riding of Yorkshire. Located on the north-eastern coast of England, the earthwork was built immediately to the east of the village of Flamborough (centre point 521387 easting, 471002 northing). The earthwork, consisting of a large bank and flanking ditch (on the western side) crosses the peninsula from north to south for approximately 4.5km, effectively cutting off Flamborough Head from the mainland. Today the dyke is protected by Historic England as four Scheduled Monuments covering its length across the Flamborough peninsula (1013191, 1013192, 1013193, 1013194).

Ordnance survey map of the location of Flamborough Head, East Riding of Yorkshire, UK

The linear earthwork has seen very little investigation over the last hundred or so years. The most significant excavation was undertaken by General Pitts-Rivers, an influential figure in the history of modern British archaeology. Starting on the 13th October 1879, Pitt-Rivers and his team excavated a section through the central section of earthwork, “close to the Bempton and Flamborough Road, at which the stream which runs from the northward passes to the inside of the dyke” (Pitt-Rivers 1882, 463). The excavation trenches focused on the bank, rather than the ditch, in order to find material related to the construction of the monument. A series of worked flint flakes were recovered during the excavation, which Pitt-Rivers attributed to the builders of the monument and suggested that ‘the work itself is not later than the bronze period; it is, in fact, of the same age as the tumuli of the Yorkshire Wolds” (Pitt Rivers 1883, 467). The excavations were later published in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in 1883 and include, as well as a description of the excavation, a detailed description of the entire course of the earthwork as it crosses the landscape. For further information about the background to the excavation, including a preceding excavation of the Danevirke, that runs from coast to coast across the Cimbrian Peninsula in northern Germany, see this blog post.

Danes Dyke, Flamborough, East Riding of Yorkshire by John Taylor Allerston (1828–1914) Sewerby Hall Museum and Art Gallery – Reproduced in accordance with a CC BY-NC-ND licence.

Some detailed analysis of the wider landscape was undertaken by Cathy Stoertz in the 1990s. Stoertz survey of aerial photographs in the region identified a series of cropmarks of linear earthworks across East Riding, as well as series of probable Iron Age and Roma settlement sites. It is in part for this reason, as well as its name, that archaeologists now believe that Dane’s Dyke was reused in the Iron Age and probably also at some point in the late ninth and tenth centuries AD. More recent GIS analysis of the earthworks across the Yorkshire Wolds was undertaken by Emily Fioccoprile as part of her doctoral research at the University of Bradford. You can download her doctoral thesis here.

Lidar image of northern part of Dane's Dyke - Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Closer to the dyke itself, it appears that a series of archaeological investigations have been undertaken on the peninsular, focused on development in and around Flamborough village. This was determined after exploring the Historic England NRHE Excavation Index (hosted by the Archaeology Data Service), although further detailed investigation of other databases, particularly the East Riding Historic Environment Record, is needed. Little archaeological evidence has yet to be uncovered, however, these investigations have been small-scale and piece-meal and there is still a substantial area to investigate in the future. Several probable Iron Age enclosure sites have been identified as cropmarks but have yet to be investigated in any further detail.

This linear earthwork forms one of a series of sites cross the UK that requires further examination and is one that we may potentially target as part of this project. We are aiming to undertake Lidar analysis and UAV photogrammetry in order to build 3d models of these landscapes and later undertaking fieldwork to investigate the construction of the earthworks themselves. This is likely o include geophysical survey and the excavation of sections through the earthworks. We are also planning to undertake scientific dating of deposits within the stratigraphy of the earthwork, combing techniques such as radiocarbon dating and OSL dating, to build a better chronology of the construction and use of these earthworks over time. Watch this space for further details!

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