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Bronze Age 2000 - 700 BC

Museum Guide

Display Contents
Curator's introduction

Early Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age
Late Bronze Age

Bronze Age Thanet

List of Displays

Artefact scales in centimetre divisions

Feature scales in 0.5 metre divisions

Curator's introduction

An early metal flat axe from Gore End, Birchington
An Early Bronze Age carved chalk object from Lord of the Manor I

Carved chalk object
from Lord of the Manor I

The Bronze Age is conventionally divided into three distinct periods - Early, Middle and Late, defined by changes in pottery styles and innovations and evolutions in the forms of Bronze tools.

Keep an eye on the changing form of the metal axes pictured on this page!

These distinct changes in material culture accompanied fundamental  changes in Bronze Age lifestyle.

Early Bronze Age 2000 - 1500 BC

A Collared Urn from
Lord of the Manor I, Ramsgate

Collared Urn from Lord of the Manor I
Early Bronze Age barbed and tanged flint arrowheads

Early Bronze Age
barbed and tanged arrowheads
from Thanet

The one on the right is a reworked broken arrowhead


The early part of the Bronze Age overlaps the Beaker Period, the division between the two archaeological periods has been defined by differences in pottery styles.

Most Early Bronze Age pots continued the tradition of using grog-tempered fabrics, an innovation of the Late Neolithic. In general the pots are rather coarse, crudely made and poorly fired vessels that  rarely survive down to our time.

Rim sherd of a fragmentary Collared Urn from Lord of the Manor

Rim sherd of a fragmentary
Collared Urn
from Lord of the Manor

Three different styles of Early Bronze Age pottery have been found in Thanet. These are:

(i) Collared Urns - when found today they are usually in burial contexts and contain the cremated remains of one of our ancestors. Isolated fragments of these vessels appear rarely. They generally date from circa 2000-1500 BC (Macpherson Grant pers comm.).

Only three complete (or largely complete) burial urns have been recovered. The first was discovered in the ditch of a roundbarrow during excavations by Howard Hurd at Bradstow School, Broadstairs in the Early 20th Century. Two other Urns (also from roundbarrow/ring-ditch monuments) came from more recent excavations at the Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate. 
A Food Vessel from Lord of the Manor I

A Food Vessel from LOM I

Illustration by
Nigel Macpherson Grant

(ii) Food Vessels - these are generally rare in this part of the Country. They generally date from circa 2000-1700 BC (Macpherson Grant pers comm.).

Thanet has two examples which comprised 2/3 of Kent's total as of 2004 (Alex Gibson in Perkins 2004).

Those fragmentary vessels were recovered from roundbarrow burials at Lord of the Manor I (illustrated left) and South Dumpton Down. The LOM I pot was part of a cremation burial which also contained a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead. The example from Dumpton came from the base of a series of intercutting burial pits, another of which contained a Beaker (a rare association between these two vessel-forms).

Perforated Accessory Vessel from Lord of the Manor IV

A Perforated Accessory Vessel

Illustration by
Nigel Macpherson Grant

(iii) Perforated Accessory Vessels/Incense Cups - These well-made and intricate vessels are only found as grave-goods; they are also very rare.  They generally date from circa 2000-1500 BC (Macpherson Grant pers comm.).

One example has been on found Thanet; discovered along with some burnt bone in a central pit surrounded by a ring-ditch (Site IV) at Lord of the Manor. It can be seen on display at Quex Park Museum, Birchington.

Dr. I.H. Longworth identified this vessel as belonging to a distinctive type of Perforated Cup of which only eleven other examples were known in 1981. All but two of these originated from Southern and Eastern England, three being found in Kent (Perkins 1981 a).
Pottery spindle whorls from Lord of the Manor I

Pottery spindle whorls from
Lord of the Manor I


Evidence of domestic occupation from this period is generally rare Countrywide and there have been no purely Early Bronze Age pottery-producing sites found on Thanet so far. Occasional sherds of Early Bronze Age Urns have been discovered during excavations, usually redeposited in much later features. These sherds could be the result of plough-damaged burials rather than evidence of domestic 'rubbish'.

It may be that a combination of both Urns and
Late style Beakers were employed by our Early Bronze Age communities and thus we should look to all the locations where they are found. However it will generally be impossible to say with certainty that these sherds don't represent plough-disrupted burials.

(See the Neolithic Display 3 Gazetteer and Beaker Display 3 for information on potential settlement evidence from the same period).

A Causewayed roundbarrow from North Foreland

A Causewayed roundbarrow at North Foreland

Burial monuments

The archaeological record of the Isle of Thanet is dominated by monuments raised by our Early and Middle Bronze Age ancestors to house the remains of their dead.

These monuments generally took the form of a earthen mound (which covered a central burial or burials) surrounded by a circular ditch. These 'roundbarrows' became the burial monument of choice during the Beaker Period and Early Bronze Age and largely remined in use until the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The majority of them likely date to the Early Bronze Age however.

(See Display 4 on Roundbarrows to learn more).

Today these monuments are generally only visible as cropmarks. The barrow mounds would have been an impressive part of the Thanet landscape until relatively recent times; eventually succumbing to the relentless teeth of the plough.


The similarities in the flintworking technology of the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods means that the characteristics of the flakes and waste products (or 'debitage') are largely indistinguishable.

Struck flakes continued to become broader, thicker and more squat in shape. The frequency in the production of blades declined further and the use of hard hammers (of stone) dominated.

The range of tool types became more and more restricted as the Bronze Age progressed. A new type known as the 'slug knife' does appear however and is often associated with Food Vessels. A trend for smaller-sized scrapers of more rounded shape can also be seen at this time (existing alongside other forms of course).

Oblique and barbed and tanged arrowheads (which originated during the Later Neolithic and Beaker periods respectively) continued in use, though the obliques may largely have disappeared by the end of the Early Bronze Age. This period also likely saw the abandonment of the production and use of the flint axe (replaced by ones of bronze).

Middle Bronze Age 1500 - 1100 BC
Large sherd from a Deverel Rimbury cremation urn from Bon Secours, Ramsgate

Urns to the left of them

Urns to the right of them

A sherd from the same Deverel Rimbury cremation urn pictured above

Inverted Middle Bronze Age Deverel Rimbury cremation urn from Bon Secours, Ramsgate
A pit containing three Deverel Rimbury cremation urns at Bon Secours, Ramsgate

The excavation of a group of three Deverel Rimbury cremation urns found in a pit at the former Bon Secours nursing home on the West Cliff at Ramsgate

Discovered during excavations by the Trust for Thanet Archaeology

The same pit at Bon Secours under excavation


The beginning of the Middle Bronze Age is defined by the re-appearance of heavily flint-tempered pottery in a type known as Deverel Rimbury, named after two 'type-sites' from Devon (both cremation burial-grounds).

The pots commonly appear in Barrel, Bucket and Globular Urn forms and are frequently decorated with the impressions of finger-tips and the application of 'cordons' (a raised strip of clay which runs around the vessel).


The Middle Bronze Age period marks another turning-point in our Prehistoric past, for throughout Britain we begin to see the regular establishment of more substantial and recognisable settlements.

Areas of the landscape used for working and living start to be formally defined through the construction of  labour intensive networks of ditches and banks which divide up the land and enclose areas of settlement.

These settlements mark a significant change to the way of life of our ancestors, for at this time we see the general abandonment of interest in constructing large-scale ceremonial monuments (such as Henges and roundbarrows) in favour of spending time and labour on the definition of territory.  Perhaps increases in population density and changes in religious views and practices were some of the factors for these changes.

A Middle Bronze Age palstave axe from South Dumpton Down
Sherd from a Deverel Rimbury fineware bowl found at Margate Football Club

Sherd from a Deverel Rimbury fineware ring-stamped bowl,
found at Margate Football Club

Climate change

An improvement in the climate of Britain
in the Middle Bronze Age permitted the occupation and cultivation of upland areas that had previously been unsuitable for agriculture.

Occupation sites

On Thanet some occupation sites dating to this period have been identified through excavations at Shuart/Netherhale Farms, South Dumpton Down, Margate Football Club and Manston Road Ramsgate.
Plan of the cropmarks at Shuart/Netherhale Farms

A plan of the cropmark at
Shuart/Netherhale Farms (TAU)

Middle Bronze Age pottery from a ditch and a pit at Shuart/Netherhale Farms

Middle Bronze Age pottery from Shuart/Netherhale Farms
Illustrated by Nigel Macpherson Grant (TAU)
They show a Middle Bronze Age enclosure overlain by an Early Medieval enclosure (established through excavation; Perkins 1981 b)

Mick, Jane and Frances excavate a cremation urn at Bon Secours, Ramsgate

Mick, Jane and Frances lift a cremation urn at Bon Secours, Ramsgate

Burial rites

In the Middle Bronze Age burial practices became focused on the rite of cremation and it is likely that only a few new roundbarrows were constructed (others may have been enlarged or refurbished to take new cremation burials).

Two notable examples have been excavated at Bon Secours in Ramsgate and King Edward Avenue in Broadstairs.

A small, shallow ring-ditch filled with flints ploughed from a central cairn was found at the former Bon Secours nursing home on the West Cliff at Ramsgate. Close to this structure were several pits which contained inverted Deverel Rimbury cremation urns (two of which are pictured on this page).
The double-ditched monument from King Edward Avenue Broadstairs
King Edward Avenue ring-ditch monument
Copyright Howard Hurd

The ring-ditch/roundbarrow (?) monument at King Edward Avenue (pictured left) featured a central pit surrounded by two ring-ditches. The pit contained an inverted urn reported by the excavator as  'of unusual style'; (TSMR 124; Hurd 1909).

The urn shares some similarities with Thanet's Deverel Rimbury fineware ring-stamped bowls (see Display 5 for more information).



Flintknapping techniques continued along the path laid out during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age. By the Middle Bronze Age the intentional production of blades had largely ceased and the general lack of any of the characteristics of skilled and careful flintknapping had left its mark on the product (so to speak). The employment of hard hammers and the lack of any regard to the preparation or curation of the flint cores now appeared to be virtually universal.

The range of tool types had become very limited and towards the end of this period the only recognisable forms still being used were scrapers, knives and borers/awls, along with pounders/pestles. The production of flint arrowheads appeared to have been abandoned by 1100 BC, though interestingly the archaeological record does not clearly show them as having been widespreadly replaced by examples in bronze (as one might think likely). Poor preservation and recycling may be factors for this however.

Late Bronze Age 1100 - 700 BC

A Late Bronze Age socketed axe

A deterioration in the climate during the Late Bronze Age caused the abandonment of the upland farms which had been established only a few hundred years before. This period also saw the first appearance of enclosed hilltop settlements which were the forerunner of the hillforts/hill-top settlements of the Iron Age.


The early pottery of the Late Bronze Age is very plain and the use of decoration appears to have been abandoned altogether for a short time, only reappearing in a very simple and limited fashion.

More significant changes in fabric and form can be identified during the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Transition period circa 900-600 BC
. Here we see the appearance of large, thin-walled pots which imitated the form of (probably expensive and relatively rare) bronze vessels.
A late form of Late Bronze Age socketed axe

A late form of Late Bronze Age socketed axe


At this time there also appeared to have been a significant increase in the availability of bronze metalwork. This may have lead to a certain degree of devaluation in bronze implements and objects as prestige goods.

Many Late Bronze Age hoards have been found on Thanet (as elsewhere), usually collections of worn out and broken tools that had probably been gathered by bronze smiths for melting down and recasting. There may also have been an attempt to increase the general value of bronze by reducing the surplus in circulation.
Excavations at Flag Fen near Peterborough have revealed a large wooden structure built for ceremonial purposes associated with the deposition of axes, swords and various other pieces of metalwork into the water nearby.

Visit their website for more information:

A socketed chisel (or small votive axe?) from Thanet Reach, Westwood

A socketed chisel or possibly a small votive axe from
Thanet Reach Business Park, Westwood

Ritual deposition of metalwork

Elsewhere in Britain this period also saw the practice of depositing unused or purposely broken metal artefacts in wet places  such as rivers, lakes and bogs. This may have been a response to the climatic downturn which saw an increase in cooler and wetter weather conditions.

Was this a new approach to accessing the spiritual side of life, inspired by the wetter climate, or does it show an attempt to placate the gods, to 'turn the tide' of coastal flooding and return to warmer weather conditions with better and longer growing seasons?

It is not known whether such practices occured at stream-side or coastal sites on Thanet; the latter have either been eroded or flooded. The area of the old 'mere' at Margate (in the vicinity of All Saints Avenue, Dreamland and the Railway Station) would be a good place to start the search for  evidence of such Late Bronze Age ritual activity on Thanet.
A  type of pottery known as 'briquettage' has been found at St. Mildred's Bay, Westgate.

These particular pots provide evidence of Late Bronze Age salt making activity at this now inundated site.

Briquettage pottery from St. Mildred's Bay Westgate


The existence of purely Late Bronze Age settlements on Thanet are difficult to identify with certainty, examples may exist at Ebbsfleet Farm, Kent International Business Park Manston, Thanet Reach Westwood and St. Mildred's Bay Westgate.

Settlements of transitional Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age date (circa 900-600 BC) may be found at Monkton Court Farm, Weatherlees Hill, Chalk Hill, Hartsdown, Asda superstore at Westwood and possibly Minnis Bay Birchington.


The ever-narrowing demands made on the functional requirements of the Late Prehistoric tool-kit, a factor intimately linked with the declining standards visible in the quality of flintwork, finally culminated in the general abandonment of the widespread use of flint as a raw material for tool production at the end of the Late Bronze Age.
In her analysis of a Late Bronze Age assemblage from Monkton Court Farm, Elizabeth Healey noted that with regards to the retouch it was difficult to tell whether some of the pieces had been deliberately worked or whether they were  the result of spontaneous retouch or other post-production factors.

(Healey 1994).

During this lithic twilight it can be seen that cores were reduced unsystematically and haphazardly for the expedient production of blanks for tool-use (using a hard hammer and creating irregular multi-platform cores). The tools were likely manufactured as required and generally discarded as soon as their immediate job was done. Any flake with a sharp edge could be utilised as a knife without any further work.

Scrapers continued to be manufactured but were frequently crude and almost 'unclassifiable' by earlier standards. The retouch on most tools was also usually poor, irregular and perfunctory and could be frequently 'denticulate' (or  coarsely saw-like) in character.

Some researchers have suggested that flint tools continued being produced and used into the Iron Age (at least on some sites). How widespread this use was is not certain however and though it seems likely, the idea of at least some form of Iron Age flintworking industry (as opposed to casual, one-off exploitation) has not yet been universally accepted.

Bronze Age Thanet

Click here to read a brief overview of Bronze Age Thanet written by Nigel Macpherson Grant (coming soon). He is a long-time excavator of Kentish archaeology, a specialist in the analysis of pottery and one of our foremost prehistorians.


List of Displays

Display 1: Gazetteer of Early Bronze Age Thanet
(In preparation).

Display 2:
Gazetteer of Middle Bronze Age

(In preparation).

Display 3: Gazetteer of Late Bronze Age Thanet
(In preparation).

Display 4: Roundbarrows on Thanet

A review of the roundbarrow phenomena, including the latest research into ring-ditch and roundbarrow monuments on the Isle and a Gazetteer of Causewayed ring-ditch sites.

Display 5
: Middle Bronze Age ring-stamp
                      decorated pottery vessels
A list and brief exploration of the rare occurrences of these fineware bowls on Thanet.

Display 6: Barbed and tanged flint arrowheads of
(Coming soon).



TAU - Thanet Archaeological Unit.
TSMR - Thanet Sites and Monuments Record.


Healey E. 1994. The lithic artefacts in Perkins D.R.J., Macpherson Grant N and Healey E. Monkton Court Farm Evaluation 1992. Archaeologia Cantiana CXIV, 297-304.

Hurd H. 1909. Late Celtic remains found at King Edward Avenue, Broadstairs,  in On a Late-Celtic Village near Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs. Archaeologia vol. 61.

Perkins D.R.J. 1981 (a). Site 4 - Lord of the Manor (Ozengell) Ramsgate, in Interim Excavation Reports 1977-1980. Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit.

Perkins D.R.J. 1981 (b). A ditched enclosure at Shuart Farm, St. Nicholas at Wade, in Interim Excavation Reports 1977-1980. Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit.

Perkins D.R.J. 2004. Oval barrows in Thanet, in Cotton J. and Field D. Towards a New Stone Age CBS Research Report 137.

The text is the responsibility of the author; the photographs are by the author unless otherwise stated.
Click here!

Paul Hart

Version 1 - Posted 25.06.06
Version 2 - Posted 10.08.06
Version 3 - Posted 21.10.06
Version 4 - Posted 16.12.06

All content © Trust for Thanet Archaeology