Promotional video for the book transcript………………………….. Ancient prehistoric Canals (Dykes) – Wansdyke
There are many theories about Dykes, especially Wansdyke, by archaeologists and historians – they first suggested it was a Defensive structure protecting lands from warring tribes to more recent theories (as no dead bodies have been found in excavations) that it is a Border Marker in the land – which we can dismiss by looking at the start of Wansdyke in the most Eastern section.
But first, we must look at how Wansdyke looked in the past, particularly in prehistory – when the river levels were much higher than today. The animation shows the result of our study of over 1500 Dykes in England, which suggests that the groundwater levels in the Mesolithic and then the Neolithic some 5 – 10k year ago changed the look of the landscape we know today.
The start of Wansdyke has always been a mystery to archaeologists as it is in a field in the middle of nowhere. This makes no sense if it is either a Defensive structure, as warring armies could simply walk around the edge of the defence, making it pointless or if it was a marker, a no man’s land to the east of the start.
When we look at the same area during the Mesolithic Period, this mystery is instantly solved as it meets the shoreline of the local river Kennet and, therefore, a continuation of the river and as an artificial canal that travelled across the island, the river created.
So, let’s use the remarkable new technology of LiDAR to fly over Wansdyke and discover how the raised water levels can answer these mysteries about Dykes.
Our first stop just a few metres into the flyover shows maybe the reason these Dykes were first constructed is they are surrounded by literately ‘hundreds’ of pits or quarries that would have provided raw materials – I would love to tell you what was contained within these pits which could have built a more substantial picture of the past – but sadly archaeologists do not understand or undertake excavations of these features – even though clearly they cover the surrounding areas around these prehistoric earthworks.
This connection to quarries is clearly shown with one of these massive pits set in the middle of the Wansdyke Earthwork – was this a working pit to excavate raw materials, or was it an attempt to keep the Wansdyke full of water by digging down and finding the water lower levels at a later date after the initial construction – maybe within the Roman Period when this culture seems to have utilised this Dyke for their own purposes – which probably again included quarrying?
We now come to the second gap in the Dyke – the raised waters of our prehistoric past show why there is a gap in the Dyke – although LiDAR shows a ‘shadow’ of a wobbly line in the Dry River Valley, also known as a Paleochannel – it is evident that the two are not connected as it maybe a latter addition once the river had disappeared or to join up two different historic Dykes – as to the Right of the gap we can now see the possible original Dyke crossing by the quarry going into what is now a farmhouse and wooden corpse
The third break in the Dyke is again in a river Valley, where its uphill climb takes a 90-degree bend in the earthwork – relating to what I said back at the beginning of this video and the start of the Wansdyke – this 90-degree bend (without obvious reason) makes absolutely no sense for either a defensive feature or a Boarder Marker as it is a huge unnecessary undertaking of extra work when a simple straight line could have saved weeks of construction work.
We see this 90-degree turn in detail now, and returning to how this area looked in the past, we see that this turn feature would have naturally ended at the shoreline of the raised river levels of the Mesolithic Period continuing on the other side of the river – this illustrates that these features are continually changing over time in reflection to the water levels dropping probably in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
We also see a possible square building going over the Dyke, which does not appear on any OS maps – is this Roman and undiscovered? If so, it is one of many strange square features in this landscape which also do not appear on OS maps suggesting its historic in construction and may explain the later additions and changes in the Dyke within the Roman Period.
At this point, we see to the Right (South) of the Dyke a ‘Long Barrow’ – this long barrow was built at the shoreline of a Paleochannel. This position on the landscape gives us a much more accurate date of construction for these features than the current archaeological carbon dating of artefacts found within or around ANY Long Barrow, as all that gives us is the LAST DATE USED, not the original construction date.
It looks like two dykes were cut to this feature (a burial chamber) at a later date and connected to the Wansdyke.
The next break in the Dyke is found at Shaw’s House, where we see a strange wibbly wobbly path connecting to Wansdyke to the Left of the screen – this is again another Dyke that is linked to Wansdyke, and as we have already seen in the third gap, probably the original connection point and the existing route we now see was added over the river valley at a later date.
As we now go over the Dyke notice the strange wobbling of the alignment – at no point did the builders build the earthwork in a straight line, which is the most effective way of going from point to point, and LiDAR shows no real reason for this erratic path which again disqualifies the Defence and Border hypothesis – but does reinforce my theory as they needed to find natural Springs within the environment to top up water levels like the locks were used to do in the 19th century Victorian canal system.
At this point, we find a collection of interesting features that again question the current theories on Wansdyke. In this small section, we see a series of ‘Tumulus’ – Round Barrows of Unknown date. The contemporary theory would have you believe that the Dyke was cut around these prehistoric features – but why? Indeed, the obvious logic of this evidence is that the Dyke existed first, and these earthworks were then added at a later date, rebuking the Saxon origin claim, who probably used these existing feature for various reasons and hence the carbon dates like the Romans.
We also see yet another series of Dykes coming out of the Mesolithic Shoreline connecting to the Wansdyke, which again makes the boarder and defence claims looks pretty ridiculous as the construction would be for no good apparent reason if the existing theories are accurate.
We stop here to see not one but three ‘cross dykes’ going through the Dyke from a raised river shoreline to another on the other side meeting another raised shoreline and also more Barrows built by the side of the Wansdyke – thus indicating the true nature and date of this construction.
As we continue to fly over Wansdyke, notice how closely the ‘Dry River Valley’ interact with the Dyke and how other more minor earthworks are cut into these paleochannels and would have probably connected to the Dyke in the past – but are now being many thousands of years old and ploughed out by farmers who are unaware of there nature and value – leaving us just ‘ghost’ in the landscape.
We stop at this point as we can see yet another very interesting connection and maybe the major intersection of Wansdyke. This is called ‘Tanhill Fair’ and has just to the Right (south) a prehistoric Camp called Rybury camp’ – as you can see, the prehistoric camp has a Dyke connecting it to Wansdyke, and in the Mesolithic when the rivers were higher it was a peninsula, that not had two natural harbours to each side of the camp. But then a Dyke was probably added later in the Neolithic when the waters were receding to keep the trading connection to the camp by boat.
At this point, we start seeing the only straight sections of Wansdyke as we also see on West Wansdyke (which we do not cover in this video) – when the Dyke goes through a massive River Valley what would have been the river Kennet during the Mesolithic. So we lose the wibbly wobbly path, which suggests to me that this was a Roman addition to the original Canal that allowed them to connect the Thames to the Bristol Channel as did the Victorians did a few miles south with their famous Avon and Kennet canal that trade linked London to Bristol.
We now come out of the Mesolithic water channel and approach the most prominent part of the Dyke – Morgan’s Hill. As you see, it goes even more wibbly wobbly than usual, and we observe this time it weaves in and out of the prehistoric barrows and hence the necessary sharp turn we observe – conventual archaeological ‘experts’ have ignored this massive clue to not only to the use of the Dyke but moreover the date of construction.
At the top of the hill, we find two more Dykes one of which is massive connecting to the Wansdyke going Right (north) past a Paleochannel showing the source of water for the Dyke in the Mesolithic Period when it was full.
Going down the hill heading West, we first see massive quarrying to the Left (South) of the Dyke, which has been missed on OS maps showing an enormous amount of activity in the past – was it Roman, Medieval or prehistoric is unclear, as archaeologists have failed to identify this as an area of interest and is now a golf course – which is commonplace reuse for old quarries.
This takes us down to the most conclusive evidence about the dating of Wansdyke ignored or excuses made by archaeologists. The Wansdyke strangely connects to a Roman Road – if the Dyke was Saxon, as the theories suggests, the roman road would have been dug up for the later Dyke….. Yet the Roman Road that veers off to the Right (north) and continues down the hill to a nearby village – so very substantial.
Closer inspection shows that the Road sits within the Ditch – which still exists, with the roadway at the bottom, and two banks on either side. The cut of Wansdyke at this point does not continue but bends to the Left (North). If this was no conclusive evidence enough, then the first archaeologist – Stukeley, in 1724, has a sketch made of this crossroads showing clearly the Roman Road cutting through the Dykes bank…… this is my Smoking Gun showing that the Roman road came after the Dyke pushing Wansdyke’s construction back into the Prehistoric when river levels were much higher.
We then go back to the River base and a very straight Dykes, which nowadays is called a Roman Road, which probably started as a Dyke or Canal and then when the water table receded, they used the bank as a dry roadway.
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