Archive for the 'Excavation' Category

29 JulSpot dating at Zone 6 of the East Kent Access Road

Paul Hart identifying sherds

Zone 6 of the East Kent Access road scheme, situated along Ebbsfleet Lane, has provided us with the greatest concentration of archaeological features yet seen on this project. It is also the most concentrated area of multi-period activity that I have seen during nearly twelve years of exploring Thanet’s wonderful archaeological heritage.

Inspired and helped by Kent pottery analyst Nigel Macpherson-Grant, I’ve been trying to get to grips with the pottery sequence in East Kent for some years now and I was delighted when Paul Murray asked me to do some preliminary spot-dating of the pottery coming out of the excavations on Zone 6. A great opportunity for me to learn more; a brave and bold strategy by Oxford-Wessex!

The archaeologists working hard and under strict time-pressure on Zone 6, have already uncovered wonderful things. With regards to the pottery, the earliest pottery identified so far dates to the Middle Bronze Age circa 1550-1350 BC. Peter Cichy discovered a virtually complete inverted urn of classic Middle Bronze Age style. A slightly unusual rim sherd from a large vessel of potentially the same date was recovered from a nearby ditch by Pete Lovett. Importantly, these two vessels might have been decorated using the same tool and this may provide us with a rare opportunity of identifying vessels made by the same prehistoric potter! Further work is required however.

Some of the pottery may give evidence of activity in the Late Bronze Age and Earliest Iron Age c.1100-600 BC, though certainly identified sherds are few at present and, again, more work is required. A major burst of activity occurred during the Early-Mid Iron Age c.550-350 BC and the quantity of pottery recovered suggests that it was at this time that the area of Zone 6 first became the focus of an actual settlement. From this period onwards the pottery evidence suggests that there may have been a relatively constant presence of human settlement activity, through to the Late Iron Age, Roman Conquest and Roman periods.

Ditches, pits and post-holes attest to the different phases of activity and it is the presence of a settlement which may have existed at the time of the Roman Conquest which could prove to be of particular significance. The archaeology in Zone 6 may allow us to perceive the evolution of a multi-period Iron Age site, influenced by contacts with the Continent, to a Late Iron Age site influenced by a more Romanised Continent, to a settlement which may have seen the arrival of the Romans in Kent. How this settlement was organised in the Early Roman period, along with the changes in the pottery and the other artefacts that remain, may allow us some important insights on how and to what degree the Roman world influenced the Iron Age inhabitants of this significant location on the Isle of Thanet.

Late Roman pottery of at least c.250 AD in date has been recovered, but at present the majority of the ceramics appear to date to the Earlier Roman period, perhaps particularly the 2nd century AD. Coins of 4th century AD date have been identified by Simon Holmes, so some degree of Late Roman activity continued in this area. A single sherd of c.7th century AD Anglo-Saxon pottery has been recovered from a post-hole and this is at present the most recent piece of pottery yet identified from Zone 6.

Paul Hart 24/25.07.10

29 JulExcavating a Romano-British oven

By the Western edge of the excavation area at Zone 6 of the East Kent Access Road scheme a promising extensive rectangular feature (approx. 10 x 10m), surrounded by a ring ditch, was uncovered. Regarding the large size of the feature and the characterisation stage of the excavations it was decided that we will excavate initially only one metre wide strips of the South-East quadrant. Our choice of slot location appeared to be quite a fortunate one – soon my trowel ‘hit’ the top of an oven wall.

Excavating an oven

Due to fragility of the structure a decision was made to extend the slots allowing for exposure and recording of the whole oven before it deteriorates any further. When fully uncovered, it turned out to be a beautiful piece of work – with a base made of chalk stone arranged in concentric circles and covered at places with a fired clay lining, or surface. On top of that sat fired clay wall remains, now measuring only up to 0.18m. The walls leaning toward the centre suggested the original beehive shape of the oven. The structure – 1.36m in diameter – had its mouth at the North-East, which after the last use was sealed with sandstone slabs and clay. The fire pit was located externally. Both the oven and the feature it was found in – produced a substantial amount of pottery sherds, dating the oven to the Romano-British period.

Usually we don’t have full understanding of the purpose these ovens served. However, regarding lack of slag or pottery in situ, we suppose it was used for processing food – i.e. bread baking. This is an ongoing investigation and we hope to produce more detailed interpretation once the environmental samples have been processed.

Milena Grzybowska

29 JulExcavation of a metalled trackway

Excavating the metalled trackway

We began work investigating a large area of dark soil and patchy surface metalling. A 7m by 4.5m slot was excavated. Working from South-East to North-West we initially exposed compact metalling consisting of small to medium dark rounded pebbles. Occasionally animal bone was set within the metalling and in one area disarticulated human bone consisting of a large skull fragment, vertebrae and other bone fragments. Immediately adjacent to the skull a curved iron object was found, either an Iron Age bill-hook or sickle. Though the distribution of both human and animal bone has been suggested as being ritual it would appear the animal bone was used as part of the metalling surface which formed a substantial trackway. Wheras it is currently unclear whether the human bone has been used in the same way or originates from the spread of dark soil above.

Overhead view of the trackway under excavation

The metalled trackway was cut by two North-East to South-West aligned ditches of Roman date. Two rounded pits to the North-West appeared to be cut by one of the ditches but further investigation is necessary.

Kirsty Bone
Laura O’Shea