Talk:Dry stone

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Dykes?[edit]

For goodness sake, who has decided that this thing is called a dry-stone dyke? I've been walking among them most of my life (which is getting to be a long time) and I've never heard it called other than a dry-stone wall (or just occasionally a dry-stone hedge). Maybe this is a regional variation, but in that case we need to have a discussion about which region's version takes priority and why. Can we discuss it here, please? seglea 16:46, 17 May 2004 (UTC)

Certainly. I too have lived amongst them for most of my life and have never heard them called anything but dykes. To me walls are something that you find in buildings. Dykes are what you find around fields. But I'm quite happy to discuss it. -- Derek Ross 17:04, 17 May 2004 (UTC)
To me a dyke is an earthwork, which might have a path or even a watercourse on top of it. I've had a look at the website of the Dry Stone Walling Association (www.dswa.org.uk) and they talk pretty much consistently about walls, though in one of their leaflets they talk about a "boulder dyke" as an alternative technical term for a single wall (one where the stones run right through from one side to the other). I can't speak for Scottish usage, and I guess my knowledge of usage in Derbyshire and the north of England might be derived more from books and maps rather than conversation - though I can never remember any of my local friends calling them dykes. But I live in the southwest, where we have dry stone boundaries on all 3 major moors and quite a few other places, and I've never heard the word "dyke" used of them, though it's available in the sense that it exists within local placenames - but I think always referring to an earthwork. I'm away from home at present so can't check my books - Crossing would probably be definitive as far as Dartmoor is concerned. seglea 06:50, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

See

for usage of dyke.

However looking around the Internet, it seems to me that wall is more widely used than dyke, so it may be better to follow the crowd and make that the main title of the article, changing around the opening paragraph. The main reason for my use of the word is that I feel extremely uncomfortable using the word wall in this context -- for me a dyke is a specific type of wall. Some of the defensive ones may well be large enough to be part drystone, part earthwork and have a path along the top but most of them aren't. I think that the fact that dyke appears in local English placenames, yet not in conversation, is just more evidence of the replacement of Northern English dialects by the standard Southern English dialect throughout England. It hasn't happened in Scotland yet, with the result that dyke is now apparently seen as a Scots word despite its long English history.

The bottom line is that since I wrote most of the current article, you got the usage that I like best. It's perfectly correct and whichever word is used someone's going to be unhappy. Personally I like the terms dyking and dyker which seem to me more specific than walling or waller and snappier than drystone walling or drystone waller. When I write more in this or other articles, I will probably continue to use dyke and its relatives where required since, as far as I'm concerned, this issue is similar to the American/English spelling issue or the date formatting issue: I will accept your usage of dry-stone wall and you should accept my usage of dry-stone dyke.

On the other hand I won't object if people come along behind me and change dyke to wall. It wouldn't be worth the effort of changing it back far less having an edit war over it. -- Derek Ross 15:18, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

Actually this looks quite tricky. I am all for conserving regional usages, and could not agree more about needing to stamp on the spread of southernisms into regions where they don't belong. If "dyke" is the authentic/older usage in the north of England, that is a good argument for giving it priority, because that's the homeland par excellence of these structures. On the other hand if most people who want to look them up think of them as walls, and that is not actually incorrect, it seems kind of inhospitable to have a redirect. How about making the main title "dry-stone wall" and beginning by explaining that "dyke" is probably a more exact term - and then of course using predominantly "dyke" through the article as at present? seglea 17:31, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

Well, dykes are very much "at home" in Scotland and Ireland too, but I take your point. In fact your suggestion sounds like a cunning plan to me! Let's do it. If some kind administrator would delete the dry-stone wall redirect page for us that will allow us to move the dry-stone dyke page to dry-stone wall and we can take it from there. -- Derek Ross 18:55, 18 May 2004 (UTC)

I have reorganised the redirect (I'm an admin), and played around with the opening para a bit. There is actually another good reason for talking about them mainly as dykes, in that a wall can be part of a dyke - you can have single wall dykes and double wall dykes, but we surely don't want to have double wall walls... BTW in saying they were most at home in the north of England, I didn't mean to claim them away from Scotland or Ireland (or Wales, come to that); but I was thinking that they original name for them there would have been Gaelic? seglea 06:13, 19 May 2004 (UTC)

That's probably true in Highland Scotland and Ireland. The Scots Gaelic for dyke is gàradh-crìche (literally field-marker, I think). Lowland Scotland is a bit more difficult to say since the locals went from Pictish to Norse/Northumbrian to Scots in some cases and from Pictish to Gaelic to Scots/English in others and Pictish has all but vanished. Of course in the same timescale, the North of England went from Welsh/Brythonic to Northumbrian to English so no doubt another word (argae, clawdd ?) was originally used in England. After all these are very old structures. Given that, I'm quite happy to say that dyke was the "original" term in Scotland and the North of England. I suppose that wall is even older since it's basically derived from Latin vallum whereas dyke is from Germanic dic and the Romans were in Britain before the Germans.

Anyway, I like your changes to the article. I think that it's looking pretty good now. -- Derek Ross

In respect to modern usage of the terms it is interesting to look at the locations of Hadrian's Wall and Offa's Dyke. Rmhermen 20:44, May 19, 2004 (UTC)

Good point. I must admit that Romanised Latin-speaking Britons had crossed my mind. -- Derek Ross 20:51, 19 May 2004 (UTC)

Very UK-centric[edit]

The article currently is very UK-centric, even at one point saying that dry-stone walls are most common in Scotland and the north of England, which I'm not sure is actually true. While dry-stone wall societies and enthusiasts are most widespread in the UK, the walls themselves are quite numerous in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France, and other places. --Delirium 07:23, Apr 17, 2005 (UTC)

Please add information about dry-stone dykes in these other parts of the world since you know more about them than I do. -- Derek Ross | Talk 15:16, Apr 17, 2005 (UTC)
ive added some info regarding southern africa to address this issue. Anlace 09:35, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Excellent! -- Derek Ross | Talk 14:54, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure whether the mention of Zulu is appropriate here, but I shall comment anyway. The Zulu did not exist in 1350 as claimed here. Also, the Zulu are bantu. I don't know enough to correct this, but it certainly was not the Zulu who introduced dry-stone wall wall construction to Southern Africa. A more likely candidate would be the bantu. Halfsnail 08:43, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
Regarding Greece, I was told that the stone walls are uses as part of terracing a sloped property. The higher property owner owns and maintains the wall. ..and that is the extent of my knowledge, so I didn't know how to add it. --Gearspring 23:09, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
I just found a flickr picture of what I am talking about: http://www.flickr.com/photos/docman/3647350/ --Gearspring 23:21, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
gearspring why dont you post the photo within the article and we can see whether it makes a good addition. the article now suffers from lack of photos of high quality drystone work. i plan to add a photo of a higher quality older wall with known provenance in the next few weeks. cheers Anlace 13:44, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Unfortunately it is not my picture, so I can't give permission.--Gearspring 01:06, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
added info on inca. Anlace 13:46, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

merge Rock fence into Dry-stone wall[edit]

yes with the surviving name being Dry-stone wall or dyke :} cheers Anlace 15:29, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

  • Agree. I do take issue with the use of the term "dyke" throughout this article. Since the article is now located at "Dry-stone wall" and Google turns up 112,000 hits on that term (compared with 29,800 on "rock fence" and just 645 for "dry-stone dyke"), I suggest that "dry-stone wall" should replace dyke as the preferred term in this article. Cmadler 18:39, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
    • Oh no, not the Google "definition" of common usage again... -- Derek Ross | Talk 05:36, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
      • I'm not arguing that Google is definitive (how would you quantify common usage?). But 112,000 hits v. 645 is a pretty overwhelming argument against using the term "dyke". In the US they are either called walls or fences, depending on the function. Cmadler 13:00, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
Given some of the other meanings of Stonewall is it possible that it's some kind of inside joke? Ewlyahoocom 19:08, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
i am somewhat open on the nomenclature throughout the article, but one should note there was strong debate over naming the whole article wall over dyke... further the principal ancient walls seem to be primarily in ireland scotland wales and england and only in southern england have i seen it called wall rather than dyke. (note there are other regions of europe where some old walls exist, but they are not either as substantial or old as the widespread use of stone dykes in the uk...would like to hear form others in europe and UK on this subject, cheers Anlace 20:19, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
The ancient walls may be primarily in UK (though I question this; is there no dry-stone construction in the Middle East, in Africa, in China?) but modern walls are surely more widespread. Cmadler 13:00, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
Yes, there was a debate but we came to an amicable agreement... -- Derek Ross | Talk 05:36, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
so as far as the merger, it would seem as though there is consensus to merge rock fence into dry-stone wall. shall we do it? Anlace 02:24, 12 May 2006 (UTC)
merger completed of rock fence into dry stone Anlace 07:31, 8 October 2006 (UTC)
Good work, Anlace! -- Derek Ross | Talk 05:44, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

Stone walls and Dry-stone walls[edit]

I am not convinced that lumping all these stone walls under dry-stone walls is appropriate. Most of the stone walls I see in northern and western Wales are stone faced and earth filled often covered in vegetation and topped with a hedge. More significantly the gaps between the stones are filled with earth which a traditional dry-stone waller would abhor. I would propose that the lead article should be Stone wall which could reference the more specific article Dry-stone wall. The Stone wall article could then include or reference some of the historic walls such as Hadrian's wall and the Antonine wall.
Velela 13:46, 22 March 2006 (UTC) Hadrians wall is not drystone it is traditional roman mortared wall using shaped face stone around a rubble core. keep dry and mortared walls separate, but linked.dgunn
I agree that we need to separate dry stone walls from other stone walls and what I was proposing was the Stone walls should include both mortared and earth filled and jointed walls leaving Dry-stone wall to be exactly what it says. Velela 10:24, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

In the county of my birth (Derbyshire, UK)the story is told that a stone waller is told never to put down a stone until they have found a place for it - also there is a tendency for the top course of a wall nowadays to be part-cemented. Is this just a feature of Derbyshire (and similar) limestone, where the rocks are often highly irregular? Linuxlad 16:03, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

There are two main forms of stone field boundaries. Dry stone walls which have through stones to bind each side with the other and no earth at all in them, and stone-faced earth banks (or stone banks with earth core) which are known as Cornish hedges in Cornwall, cloddau in Wales and probably something else in Britany, Ireland and West Scotland where they are thought to occur. The main difference is that dry stone walls are usually a rigid structure with the sides often vertical, while Cornish hedges have are build with an inwards curved batter and the sides are independant of each other. Rock fences, sometimes called tombestone walls are usually reckened to be classified within the dry stone wall catagory. There's a lot written about this at www.cornishhedges.com. The meeting point of these problems cannot be "stone walls" : no one will accept it because of the confusion with stone walls as part of a stone-walled building. anaf, 24 April

Lets just be glad we got bricks in this day and age and we don't have to rely on these things huh fellas? -- (unsigned by Anon)

The strange thing is that we do still rely on them in this day and age. There are thousands of them around the modern world keeping sheep and cattle from straying, or just plain separating one field from another. -- Derek Ross | Talk 05:53, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

How were Inca walls built?[edit]

Is it known how the Inca built those amazing walls? I recall hearing that that's a "lost art", but can find neither a source for that claim nor a how-to nor a recent example. Any of which could be a great addition to this interesting article. 151.201.156.108 04:08, 27 July 2007 (UTC)

Have a look at an extract from "The Inkas: last stage of stone development in the Andes" by F. Menotti at [1] The article goes into some of the details about how the rocks were shaped. Malcolm Lambert (talk) 04:57, 31 July 2008 (UTC)

A Motley crew![edit]

Inca walls do not fall into the same category as drystone walls: they are made of huge blocks whose sides were cut so as to adjust to the nearest stones; besides, Inca walls were used in fortresses or in palaces. Likewise, the stonework of ancient Greek mausoleums has nothing to do with drystone walling. And by the way, the title of the page should be "Dry Stone Construction" or perhaps "Dry Stone Walling", not just "Dry Stone", which can be anything.--86.217.5.13 (talk) 23:38, 15 June 2008 (UTC)


Dry Stone Construction sounds good and encompasses all aspects of the art. Your comment invokes the question, how then to define "dry stone"? The article mentioned above by Menotti gives examples of Inca structures built from un-shaped rocks all the way to their exquisitely jointed walls and squared ashlar type walls. I suppose dry stone means structures built from pieces of stone without the use of mortar. Dry stone structures are flexible while the hardening of mortar turns the whole mortared structure into one monolithic block. After all, most dry stone wallers would have knocked a point or edge off a stone to make it fit nicely. So from this type of rudimentary shaping all the way to the improbably-shaped rocks in some Inca walls there is virtually a continuum of how much each stone has been shaped. So maybe it's the lack of mortar that defines the structure rather than the amount of work gone into shaping some or all of the stones. And, does the structure have to have a vertical dimension? Is random stone paving dry stone construction? I'd say so, but probably has more in common with other types of paving than to other types of dry stone construction. Malcolm Lambert (talk) 05:14, 31 July 2008 (UTC)


I have come across two styles of mortarless stone walls, dressed stone walls, and natural stone walls. Late era Inca stone work is made of dressed stone, but is still set without mortar, and is still 'dry stone'. Natural stone walls are more common it seems,the ones made of smaller rocks that have had little to no work done on the rocks themselves before being placed on the wall. However they still stay together based on variants of the same theory and structural properties, it is just the dressed stone tends to be harder to push over and far harder to make. --Talroth (talk) 16:27, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

confusing lede[edit]

My edit to this article, which was reverted by Elnon, resulted from the fact that I miss-understood the wording of the lede. I note he has adusted it slightly, but I'm concerned that it still lacks clarity - partly due to the use of the word fence, and partly due to the claim about dry-stone technology being best known in the construction of terrace-retaining walls.

I think both of the above may be correct in certain localised contexts, but neither are universally valid. I would certainly dispute that dry stone technology is best known in the construction of terrace-retaining walls - based on my own experience of dry stone walling. In many rural areas of Britain there are miles and miles of dry stone field walls, with retaining walls used to a much more limited extent.

The word fence is problematic because it's not one universally used or understood in the context of stone. Some mention should be made of this usage, but the article can be accessed world-wide and, for the sake of universal clarity, a wall should be called a wall.

And, whilst on the subject, the inconsistent hyphenating of dry stone needs looking at. Whilst it doesn't affect the clarity of the article, it is very annoying. Rgds Obscurasky (talk) 11:01, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

I agree with all your points. Hope to collaborate in getting both improvement and consensus.  Velella  Velella Talk   11:53, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

"Dry-stone technology is best known as retaining wall construction, but dry stone fences, buildings, bridges, and other structures also exist." The original sentence (to which by the way I have been no party) distinctly referred to retaining walls (see the link). Now after the latest reverting, the sentence reads "Dry-stone technology is best known in the context of wall construction, but dry stone fences, buildings, bridges, and other structures also exist." Now it stands to reason that "wall construction" encompasses both free standing and retaining wall construction, so I am not going to find fault with the rephrasing. Dry stone soil retaining walls are a common occurrence in North Mediterranean countries as any specialist of dry stone construction in those countries knows. What the page obviously needs is a section on the subject. --Elnon (talk) 21:06, 5 April 2011 (UTC)

Having seen dry stone walls in the drier parts of Europe and also admired the endless ranks of free-standing drystone walls throughout Wales, Scotland, the Lake District Pennines etc., I understand the issue and agree that it may perhaps need to two separate sections to describe the two distinct forms

Stonehenge[edit]

I've reverted a Good faith deletion, regarding Stonehenge. The text does not say it's the largest stone circle, it says it's the largest dry stone structure - the point being that (unlike other stone circles) it has joints (connecting the lintels and uprights).

These are actually mortised (see here) and certainly warrant mention, but I would agree that the text could be improved - perhaps even expanded slightly to make reference to the jointing technique used.

Rgds Obscurasky (talk) 07:02, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

Spammed efforts keep getting restored[edit]

  • Please check this editor's contribs to see that any mention of Muller was spammed into this article. I've removed this twice but have been reverted. That writing wasn't used in this article and was placed promotionally.
     — Berean Hunter (talk) 19:23, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
You've been reverted only once. The book is listed now under the heading "Further reading", not as one of the page's references (which are quasi nonexistent by the way). Apart from that, I see no reason why I could object to your removing spam and non English titles. --Elnon (talk) 20:46, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Revert 1 which restored both the external link spam as well as the book spam
  • Revert 2 which restored the book spam
The book should be removed because it was spammed into the article. It should not be kept.
 — Berean Hunter (talk) 21:06, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
You're right. Sorry about that oversight. --Elnon (talk) 10:54, 15 February 2014 (UTC)

Dry stone and dry stone walls[edit]

While the English article is about dry stone constructions in general, most interwiki articles are about "dry stone walls". Maybe this should be synchronized? -- Egil (talk) 20:46, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

The Washington Monument is drystone. Knowmoore (talk) 06:04, 16 July 2017 (UTC)

Your pronouncement should definitely be inscribed in (unmortared) stone.
Please see the Washington Monument page on the National Park Service website :
"Using a steam-powered elevator that could lift six tons of stone up to a movable 20-foot-tall iron frame replete with a boom and block and tackle systems for setting the stones, the masons inched their way up the monument, building twenty feet of stone and mortar, then moving the iron framework up twenty feet, repeating as they went upward".
"At 1:51 p.m. on August 23, 2011, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck 90 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Visitors inside the Washington Monument's observation deck were thrown about by the force of the shaking; falling mortar and pieces of stone caused minor injuries, though all the people inside exited safely".
Need I go any further? --Elnon (talk) 12:48, 16 July 2017 (UTC)

"Dry stone walling" or "dry-stone walling"[edit]

I carefully converted adjectival uses of "dry stone" before a noun (e.g. "dry stone wall") to add hyphens ("dry-stone wall"). Personally, I think this is simply conventional English, but I was reverted. One of the arguments was that the Dry Stone Walling Association doesn't hyphenate, which I am tempted to counter by reference to WP:TM. It's the stone that's dry, not the wall – hence a comma is surely conventional and uncontroversial. I would note that Collins Dictionary hyphenate, and The Accidental Apostrophe: ... And Other Misadventures in Punctuation shares my position: "Come to think of it, dry-stone walls are different from dry stone walls: the former are of a particular type built without mortar; the latter may or may not have mortar but haven't been rained on lately" [original emphasis]. Thoughts? Dave.Dunford (talk) 22:46, 11 April 2018 (UTC)

As I said in my explanation for reverting your good faith edit, hyphenation is not an exact science. WP:TM doesn't counter anything; the convention is not to hypenhate in this context. Obscurasky (talk) 00:10, 12 April 2018 (UTC)
"The convention is not to hyphenate in this context": my cited sources say differently. But I'm not going to edit-war over a hyphen. Dave.Dunford (talk) 10:14, 12 April 2018 (UTC)