Download the Walk Handout and Map: The Landscape Archaeology of Martin Down
Walking in the footsteps of Colt Hoare and Pitt-Rivers, both of whom investigated the dyke and its environs, we walked along this ‘linear’, as it is called in the literature, and pondered on just how rich is the archaeology of this small tract of countryside is. Quite apart from other linears such as sections of Grim’s ditch, there is also a concentration of Neolithic long barrows and Bronze Age round barrows, prehistoric enclosures and of course the northern end of the Dorset Cursus, not forgetting the Roman road and even some Word War 2 archaeology.
Bokerley Dyke itself, although of late Roman construction in its final and today visible form, seems to have had Bronze Age antecedents: Pitt Rivers found Mid-Bronze Age Deverel Rimbury ware (pottery) on linears that abut Bokerley Dyke – not that the General was aware that this pottery was from the Bronze Age. Time and time again the meticulous recording methods that Pitt Rivers employed have allowed successive generation of archaeologists to tease out relationships from his evidence that he was not able to see himself.
As to the function of Bokerley Byke, we were able to consider modern interpretations which see the dyke as a cultural frontier rather than a physical barrier. Pitt-Rivers of course was more inclined to see the military purpose of such an earthwork and indeed, in the Late Roman period, there is indeed now evidence that the Roman road was actually cut off in two separate blocking episodes.
That Bokerley is still a county border today and still commands views over an open landscape, not to mention the rich biodiversity of Martin Down, means that walking the dyke provides a unique opportunity to sample the wide repertoire of chalk land archaeological features, without forgetting that, around the earthworks, successive generations of our ancestors both farmed and attempted to express their evolving beliefs and identities.