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Cross dyke and linear boundary on Melbury Hill and Compton Down

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Cross dyke and linear boundary on Melbury Hill and Compton Down

List entry Number: 1016894

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Compton Abbas

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Melbury Abbas

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 12-Jul-1961

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Aug-1999

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 31071

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monument types which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well- preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance for the analysis of settlement and land use in the later prehistoric period. The linear boundary and cross dyke on Melbury Hill and Compton Down are well preserved examples of these classes of monument and will contain archaeological remains providing information about later prehistoric land use and society. The visible relationship between the cross dyke and linear boundary is unusual and provides a significant association, and may represent major reorganisation of land use or territories in the Iron Age. The cross dyke is one of five in close proximity at the end of the escarpment providing an unusual and significant association.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes a cross dyke on Melbury Hill and a linear boundary which intersects it and runs from Melbury Hill to Compton Down. The cross dyke runs broadly north-south across a narrow ridge connecting Melbury Hill, which rises steeply to the west, with Compton Down to the south east, terminating at each end just above the steep slope of a coombe. It is one of five similar monuments in the vicinity at the end of the escarpment, all of which are the subject of separate schedulings. It has a bank up to 10m wide and 2m high with a ditch on the uphill side 3.5m wide and up to 1m deep. A gap of approximately 30m at the centre of the cross dyke, on the crest of the ridge, may have been an original entrance, but this is an area which has been disturbed. The cross dyke is cut near its northern end by the linear boundary. The linear boundary rises straight up a very steep slope at its north western end, runs over the lower levels of Melbury Hill, across a narrow ridge and on to Compton Down, generally below the crest of the hill and above a steep north-facing scarp, for a total length of 1.8km. It has a ditch between two banks, `V'-shaped in profile with more enhanced banks on the steeper slopes at its north eastern end. The ditch is up to 2.5m wide at the top and 0.8m at the bottom and 0.2m deep. The lower northern bank is 3m wide and 0.8m high from the bottom of the ditch with an outer height of up to 0.5m. The upper southern bank is up to 7m wide and 1.8m high from the bottom of the ditch with an outer height of 0.2m. The eastern end is disturbed and partially destroyed by old quarrying but the ditch and banks continue beyond this curving back towards the south, fading out before the road. About 400m to the south east there is a 90m stretch of bank and ditch of similar type, which may represent an unfinished section of the same feature. The two sections of earthwork are linked by a lynchet and a hedge bank on the same alignment. However, as this section of ditch cannot be positively identified as part of the linear boundary, it is not included in the scheduling. Other slight banks, visible adjacent to it on Compton Down and near its northern end below Melbury Hill, may be the remains of old field boundaries, but, as their date, nature and relationship to the linear boundary are unclear, they are not included in the scheduling. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments described the monument as a trackway, and a date in the Roman or post-Roman period has been suggested. This cannot be verified without excavation but the earthwork is characteristic of later prehistoric linear boundaries, of which there is a particular concentration in Wessex. While it may have been used at a later date for herding animals, its prime function was probably land demarcation. All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: ST 87797 19730

Map

Map
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Jun-2018 at 02:42:10.

End of official listing