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Bronze Age 2000 - 700 BC

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Ring-ditches and roundbarrows of Thanet - Section 5

Section 1


The numbers game

Section 2

Characterising the distribution

Section 3

A new review

New discoveries/old

Coastal erosion

An estimated total

Section 4




Section 5

Causewayed ditches



Ring-ditches and roundbarrows of Thanet - Section 5

Plan of LOM III

Plan of Lord of the Manor III (TAU)

A Late Neolithic enclosure re-used in the Early Bronze Age

Causewayed ring-ditches
and roundbarrows

Twelve Causewayed ring-ditches and roundbarrows are known to have been excavated on Thanet. Dated examples range from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age.

This does not include the monument defined as Monkton-Minster A253 ring-ditch IV in Fisk (2003). This was only part revealed in the excavation and is not certainly a ring-ditch at all.

Should it be one then the monument features a very broad causeway and in plan may be more of a horse shoe-shaped enclosure (see below left).

In some cases the causeways probably relate to an early phase in a monuments multi-period history, where a space initially demarcated for ceremonial activities has latterly been converted into a burial monument - a roundbarrow.
Monkton-Minster IV

Plan of Monkton-Minster IV

Copyright Canterbury Archaeological Trust

Plan of the Causewayed roundbarrow at North Foreland

Plan of the Causewayed roundbarrow North Foreland III discovered at North Foreland, Broadstairs

In most cases the causeways relate to the burial phase alone. The early examples of these Causewayed roundbarrows may be reflecting an evolution of Neolithic traditions in  monument design (influenced by the causewayed Henge) and burial rites (formerly characterised elsewhere by multiple and disarticulated inhumations and also featuring burial on the base of ditches).

Five of the causeways of these monuments have been (or are likely to have been) slighted at the end of their life, being cut down as an act of 'closure', perhaps at the conclusion of any burial phase.

An interesting trend can be seen in the shape of grave cuts. It appears that central, primary, inhumations are always in rectangular-shaped grave cuts, while the outer burials are frequently within oval graves or much more rounded/sub-rectangular graves. This trend is paralleled generally in the roundbarrow tradition on Thanet.

Click here to explore the phenomena of the Causewayed monuments further (including a Gazetteer with some links to additional Displays on the individual sites).


Radiocarbon dates have been obtained from several burials associated with Thanet roundbarrows. These are listed below (along with their % confidence rating where known and the lab reference code).

(i) Manston Runway Approach.
Beaker inhumation burial.
2120-2080 BC (68%) or
2132-1922 BC (68%)
/ 2140 - 1885 BC (95%).

(ii) South Dumpton Down.
Multiple Beaker/Food Vessel  inhumation burial.

Burial 1:
2120-2080 BC (68%) / 2135-1895 BC (95%).
Burial 3:
2020-2000 BC (68%) / 2100-2085 BC (95%).
Burial 5:
1920-1870 BC (68%) / 1965-1745 BC (95%).

(iii) Lord of the Manor VII.
Central inhumation burial.
2131-1922 BC.


(iv) Beauforts, North Foreland Avenue.
Beaker inhumation burial.
2290-2190 BC (64.3%) / 2350-2130 BC (95.4%).
(Wk 18732).

(v) Monkton-Minster A253.

Soot from a Trevisker Urn placed in ring-ditch.
1600-1320 BC.
(OxA 6141).

(vi) Bon Secours, Ramsgate.
Deverel-Rimbury cremation outside barrow.
1450-1380 BC (57.4%) / 1520-1310 BC (95.4%).
(Wk 15116).

'the Thanet landscape seems to have no equal in terms of density [of roundbarrows]'

Dr. David Perkins (1999)


In 1999 the culmination of Dr. David Perkins' studies into the Thanet barrow landscape led him to conclude that East Kent's two distinct barrow concentrations of the Isle of Thanet and the 'Sutton Wedge'

'are directly comparable with the more densely barrow-populated areas of Wessex' (Perkins 1999, 49).

In exploring this point he showed that the area extending 10km around Stonehenge was known to contain 333 barrows in 414 sq km. This was a density of 0.80 barrows per sq km.

The 'Sutton Wedge' had 356 roundbarrows and ring-ditches within an area of 234 sq km - a density of 1.52 per sq km (Perkins 1999).

At that time (1999) Thanet had at least 380 roundbarrows and ring-ditches (the vast majority of which were likely to be roundbarrows) in 64 sq km - a density of 5.89 per sq km.

Figures obtained from the current review now suggest that
Thanet has at least 480 roundbarrows and ring-ditch monuments in an overall area of 86.31 sq km - a density of 5.56 per sq km. This figure includes all of the Isle's urban areas within its calculation, estimated at comprising 33.64 sq km. If one concentrates on areas solely capable of cropmark formation then the monument density figure becomes a much more accurate 9.11 per sq km.

As Dr. Perkins had already pointed out in 1999 -

'the Thanet landscape seems to have no equal in terms of density'!



ASE - Archaeology South East.
KARU - Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit.

RCHME - Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
TAU - Thanet Archaeological Unit.
TTA - Trust for Thanet Archaeology.
WA - Wessex Archaeology.


Cunliffe B. 1993. Wessex to AD 1000. Longmans, London.

Fisk P.M. 2003. An examination of the excavated ring ditch enclosures on The Isle of Thanet. Unpublished Degree thesis.

Perkins D.R.J. 1987. Eroding History. A Report to English Heritage. Trust for Thanet Archaeology.

Perkins D.R.J. 1999. A Gateway Island. Unpublished Doctoral thesis.
Dr. Dave Perkins at work on the excavation at St. Stephen's College, North Foreland
Dr. Dave Perkins
at St. Stephen's College (NFB99)


The body of this work is founded on the extensive research conducted
over many years by the former Director of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology -  Dr. Dave Perkins.

His work has highlighted the importance of this particular aspect of our Prehistoric heritage and we are indebted to him.

I should also like to acknowledge the work of Nigel Macpherson Grant for his excavations (along with Dave Perkins) of the numerous and fascinating ring-ditch monuments at Lord of the Manor.
Pip Fisk
Pip Fisk

Much thanks also goes to Pip Fisk for her work on compiling a thorough, comprehensive and invaluable gazetteer of the roundbarrow and ring-ditch monuments excavated on Thanet.

Great effort was made by her to gather as much
published and unpublished information as possible and her work has been (and continues to be) the 'one-stop-shop' for research into these matters. The time which has been saved by consulting this document is immeasureable  and it has had a profound impact on the labour taken to make the observations and presentations of the ring-ditch phenomena published here.
Mr. John Villette
Mr. John Villette excavating an Anglo-Saxon SFB next to the QEQM Hospital Margate

I should also like to express my great appreciation to Mr. John Villette for the information he has given about the probable Causewayed ring-ditch monument discovered during unfinanced Rescue Excavations at Mill Lane, Margate in 1975.

He is keen to see some details published about the important discoveries made at this site and I am glad that this current work provides an opportunity to bring a record of its existence into the public domain.
More information will hopefully be forthcoming in the future.

The publishing of archaeological investigations is frequently at the mercy of circumstances beyond the control of those who undertake the work, even in todays  commercial archaeological operations.

Where comprehensive publication is lacking or impossible due to financial constraints, it is important that at least some summary 'Statement of Existence' can be made (as has now been achieved here, with more information to follow in the future hopefully). At the heart of the subject this is probably the most important thing.

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

Paul Hart

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

All content © Trust for Thanet Archaeology