Finds processing can be one of the most interesting aspects of an archaeological excavation project. There’s a chance to see all the finds laid out in one place and set to work with painstaking effort, many bowls of water and an array of toothbrushes to see what’s really under the dirt.
We spent the first Saturday in August processing the finds from a recent excavation in Thanet, including washing the pottery you last saw being excavated in the final image for the VM_365 project.
With a big group of volunteers from the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society and a student from the University of Kent, we made great progress with a stack of pottery, animal bone and stone from the site. There was even a chance to be talked through the key identifying characteristics of the pottery we were washing at tea time.
All the pottery from the site seems to date to the Earliest Iron Age, spanning the period from around 950-600BC. There may be a few scrap from other periods but we’ll have to wait until all the sherds are looked at in detail later in the year.
It was a beautiful summer day, with the company of old and new friends and there were interesting archaeological artefacts too, what more could you want?
Today is Day 365 of the VM_365 project and the final image in the VM_365 series.
We have managed to create an archaeological picture and journal post every day for a whole year, come rain or shine. Sadly the popularity of VM_365 project left us unable to post to this Journal for the last three days of the project but we were still able to post to Facebook and Twitter. If you are reading this, we eventually managed to post our final three VM_365 journal entries!
But is this the end for the Virtual Museum’s window into the world of Thanet’s archaeology? Not likely as there’s big news ahead and more to come from the new discoveries that are being made in Thanet. Even while we were posting in the last few weeks of the project these big slabs of Earliest Iron Age pottery vessel sherds were being excavated on a site on the south of the Isle. We’re sure they will make a great image in a Virtual Museum gallery post in the near future.
We’ve been pleased to give you this opportunity to share our love of the Isle of Thanet and the archaeological evidence for its past communities, and maybe the best is yet to come!
Today’s image is another in our series of roundups of posts contributed by our guest curators. This time we are looking at the posts Nigel Macpherson Grant contributed, mainly about prehistoric ceramics. Many of our posts have been based on his extensive knowledge and the detail published in reports and so much material in the VM_365 is based on his work.
A report from an archaeological specialist could appear to be a dry prospect for the average reader, but Nigel’s are always filled with nuggets of information about the potters art or the patterns in form, fabrics and techniques current at any time which make for interesting posts for the VM project. On the left hand side of the picture is Nigel himself, who appeared in Day 2 of the VM 365 project, sorting through boxes in our store for more pottery examples.
Archaeology depends on the dedication of people who make the detailed study of a single type of artefact their life’s work and the contribution of our friend Nigel to Thanet’s archaeology is immeasurable and continues to grow.
Links to Nigel Macpherson Grant’s contributions to the VM_365 Project:
As we have reached the final few days of our VM_365 posts we thought that it would be rather fun to introduce us to you as the Curators of VM_365 using either our favourite images or a summary of the posts that we contributed over the project. Our Curator today is me, Emma.
Today’s image for Day 361 features my favourite four images that we posted for the project. One of my hobbies outside of archaeology is sewing, particularly dressmaking (although do not ask me to take up your trousers or sew on a button which I loathe!). So, it would seem natural that my favourite four images are all implements dating from the Iron Age to the Anglo Saxon period that are associated with the production of cloth.
The manufacture of cloth is a process that is largely alien to most people whether they are interested in sewing or not. Cloth, be it natural or man made is delivered to us in bolts of pre woven fabric from which we can choose our fibre, weight and pattern preferences, we can buy it on the internet, by mail order and in shops. Personally manufacturing our own cloth is a practise long forgotten and these artefacts represent the processes involved when producing your own cloth was a necessity.
The artefact on the top left is a Roman spindle whorl which previously featured on Day 276 of the VM_365 project. This example was recycled from a sherd of 1st century flagon and would have been used to turn the raw product from fleece into yarn. The Spindle whorl was wedged onto a spindle which was suspended upright from the fibres to be turned into yarn. The spindle was set spinning and the twist travelled along the length of the fibres spinning it into yarn.
The weaving comb shown in the bottom left of the image above is of late Iron Age date and would have been used to push threads into place during weaving. This example featured on Day 110 of the VM_365 project and it is unclear if it had actually been used as the decoration is unfinished and some of the tines are broken.
For the image today, Day 359 of the VM_365 project, we have a view in the Our Thanet series, taken from the crest of the hill at Elmwood Avenue and facing east across a valley cutting the chalk downland to reach the sea at Joss bay on the left side, between the Oast House and the North Foreland lighthouse.
The lighthouse stands at the northern end of the North Foreland promontory, an isolated chalk ridge which runs across the horizon in the picture and on which some of Thanet’s most significant prehistoric discoveries have been made. The North Foreland is one of the geographical features of the British Isles whose name (Kantion) was recorded in ancient literature by the 3rd century BC Greek explorer, sailor and navigator Pytheus of Massilia (modern Marseille).
On the valley slope to the right of the lighthouse a very complex cropmark of linear ditches and other features is often visible from the viewpoints around the valley. Excavations over many years have revealed that the cropmarks are the visible indicator of the very extensive prehistoric settlement that occupies the chalk ridge.
The pottery sherds are decorated in La Tène II style and date to c. 250-125 BC. The vessel, probably a product of a local pottery industry in the continental style, is decorated with Iron Oxide pigment which colours the swirls in the decoration as dark red. A vessel of a similar style was excavated by Dr Arthur Rowe in 1924 at Tivoli, Margate and featured on Day 226 of the VM_365 project
Today’s image for Day 357 is another one in the Our Thanet thread for VM_365. The overview of Dumpton Gap is taken from near the entrance to Seacroft Road, which is on the extreme left of the image. The view faces north across the bay where the deep valley meets the sea at the high chalk cliffs on the right side of the image.
In the process of creating the framework of the dense suburb that now covers the valley, many significant archaeological discoveries were made. The earliest of these were recorded by Howard Hurd, one of Thanet’s heritage pioneers, who as Borough Surveyor for Broadstairs and St. Peters laid out much of the road network which can be seen in the catalogue photograph.
The site was explored further in several excavations from the 1960’s to the 21st century when the development of suburban roads and closes with characteristic bungalows and semi-detached houses, were explored by Joe Coy, another important heritage pioneer. Pottery of Iron Age and Roman date from these excavations featured in several previous VM_365 posts.
The landscape shown in today’s post is perhaps one of the richest sources of archaeological information in Kent, but is little known in the wider archaeological community because of the limited circulation of the publications of the excavations and the lack of any recent attempt to bring all the sites together and reconsider their significance. Perhaps this overview for the VM_365 project will serve as a start in that process.
The image for day 356, which continues our intermittent Our Thanet series is a panoramic view of part of Margate, taken across the roof of the Margate Winter Gardens and facing the terrace of houses standing on Fort Hill. The roof top of the Turner Centre, overlooking the historic Margate Pier can be seen on the far right of the image.
Although much celebrated for its recent arty renaissance in association with the Turner Contemporary Galery and the the Dreamland theme park which opened its doors again this weekend, this area is one of Margate and Thanet’s richest areas for the archaeology of the Iron Age and Roman period.
An Iron Age burial lying in a circular pit cut into the chalk geology was found during the demolition of parts of the former Cobbs Brewery complex and the construction of a Police Station which stands behind the last buildings at the right hand end of the terrace.
Behind the houses at the centre of the image, in the area of Trinity Square redevelopment has revealed a dense cluster of Iron Age and Roman features cut into the chalk, these include several storage pits and at least three more pit burials. Roman cremations contained in pottery vessels were found in construction work in the 19th century, in the area behind the right hand end of the terrace of buildings shown in the picture.
The terrace of houses in today’s image follows the crest of one side of the deep valley that carries the Dane Stream to the Bay at Margate. On the downslope beyond the terrace are the subterranean passages of the Margate Caves and the Shell Grotto.
Margate continues to occupy a place in the nations heart as a quintessential seaside town. The image of the knife we posted on Day 95 shows that even the town’s newer attractions like Dreamland, restored and re-opened as an attraction to a new generation of visitors produced its own historic artefacts to be discovered by contemporary archaeologists.
Such a significant gathering place generates its own archaeological footprint and the ancient discoveries from the same area show that the landscape around Margate has been a place of gathering for over two millennia.
Today’s image for Day 331 of the VM_365 project shows two views of a sherd of pottery dating to the 10th century BC that was recently excavated at Monkton, Thanet.
The image on the left shows the relatively smooth outer surface of the sherd which came from a flint tempered, burnished vessel from the earliest Iron Age. The image on the right is of the interior of the sherd and shows three vertical ridges left behind when the Iron Age potter used their three middle fingers to pull the clay into shape while creating the vessel.
These marks allows you to place your fingers in exactly the same place as the potter from the 9th century, someone about whom we know almost nothing, apart from the impression of their fingers left behind in the clay they were working.
Today’s image for Day 315 of the VM_365 project shows part of a Middle Iron Age flat and perforated handled lid for a cooking vessel which came from a small excavation at Tivoli Park Avenue, Margate carried out by the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society.
In the uppermost levels of the sequence, in descending order, there was a thin scatter of material confirming Anglo-Saxon, Early-Mid Roman and Late Iron Age activity. Beneath this were increasing quantities of Mid-Late iron Age material (c.200-50 BC), and then beneath that a chalk and cobble floor of, broadly Mid Iron Age date (c.350-200 BC) and, beneath that again, postholes and occupation soil datable to the Early-Mid Iron Age (c.600-350 BC).
One of the features associated with the Middle Iron Age floor produced the lid shown above in the picture on the left. It is part of a handled lid – with the rim at the bottom, and handle at top. The handle is flat and perforated (picture right) which means that the lid was used during the slow-cooking of vegetables or meat, over a relatively low heat.
Roughly made pot lids, using re-worked lower bodies of broken jars are not unknown from Iron Age sites – but a deliberately-made lid, with a ‘steamer-knob’, is rare and tends to confirm that at least in the Middle Iron Age more sophisticated cooking techniques were being employed than the simple roasting of a pig or other animal on a turned spit.
The information and images for this post were kindly provided by Nigel Macpherson-Grant.