Category Archives: What’s going on?

What is the Trust for Thanet Archaeology up to at the moment?

Earliest Iron Age pottery and other finds cleaned

Washing earliest Iron Age pottery
Washing Earliest Iron Age pottery

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.

journal 3We 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?

VM_365 Day 365 More, much more than this!

VM 365 D365Today 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!


VM_365 Day 355 Farewell to all that

VM 355

Today’s post for Day 355 of the VM_365 project features a series of images behind the scenes at our Friendships and Fallouts, Waterloo to World War One TimeTunnel, which has featured in the last four days of VM_365.

Day 351 took you through the first stage of the Tunnel, exploring Britain at the time of Waterloo, Day 352 took us to the Victorian period and the Crimean War. The industrial era and the age of Inventions in the 19th century featured on Day 353 and we entered World War One on Day 354.

Today’s picture shows how we built the flats that featured in the Time Tunnel and some of the scenes along the way, as well as some of the lighter moments of setting up and running the Time Tunnel experience.

Once again we had great fun at Bradstow School and we hope that we gave an interesting and educational experience to our travellers through time.

It all over now, and it isn’t even Christmas

VM_365 Day 350 Virtual Museum TimeTunnel for School Event

VM 350

Today’s image for Day 349 of the VM_365 project was taken as the Trust set up a Virtual Museum TimeTunnel, ready for four days of workshops for schools to be hosted at Bradstow School in Broadstairs from the 15th to the 18th of June 2015.

The Heritage Lottery funded event ‘Friendships and Fallouts, from Waterloo to World War One’ will see as many as 500 children pass through the workshops and activities in the grounds of the school. The event commemorates both the bicentenery of the battle of Waterloo and the continued marking of the hundredth anniversary of the First World War.

The TimeTunnel will take children on a journey through the changes that took place in British life in the hundred years from the defeat of Napoleon to the outbreak of a conflict that reached every part of the world.  The TimeTunnel visits  a series of scenes that explore the changes from industrialisation to the great inventions of the early 20th century which created the means to make global conflict possible.  As the journey through the tunnel takes place, the friendships between nations, families, working people and soldiers are investigated and the fallouts that provoked conflict between people and nations are revealed. The journey through the TimeTunnel ends in the battlefields of the Western Front with the fate of all the travellers left undecided.

Journal articles over the next four days will reveal the secrets of the VM TimeTunnel and follow the progress of the event.

VM_365 Day 228 Teaching Beaker era with tabletop excavation

VM 228The image for Day 228 of the VM_365 project is of a resource the Trust has created for teaching some of the themes of prehistory in primary school workshops, a table top Beaker burial  given its first trial recently at a primary school in Broadstairs.  The tabletop layout includes a skeleton in a crouched position, accompanied by a replica Beaker vessel and a contemporary barbed-and-tanged arrowhead.

One element of the workshop is a discussion of pre-history as an idea, drawing out the sense that it describes periods in the development of human societies where no stories told directly by the people themselves exist. Studying prehistoric periods requires a process of investigation, based on the observation of objects and the circumstances of discovery. To generate narratives from the evidence requires imagination to draw out associations and analogies with contemporary life experiences.

The burial and accompanying objects create a detailed scenario to provoke discussion and demonstrate how archaeologists have used the detailed investigation of the pottery, flintwork and the human remains separately to provide data. Revealing the burial from under its covering of grassy topsoil (top images) adds a sense of the theatre of discovery which is such a part of the archaeological investigation process.

The combination of the artefacts and the burial into a recognisable archaeological scenario gives the children an insight into the practical circumstances of investigation where archaeologists generate their data. They can take part themselves in creating and debating their own versions of the narrative of the burial.

For an archaeologist well versed in the complexities of theoretical approaches to prehistory and the interpretative models and debates that are generated from them, it is fascinating to see these same arguments arise among such young minds based on the first principles of observation and imagination provoked by a Beaker burial presented in their own classroom.

Beyond the educational aspects of the activity, there is the opportunity to create a great deal of fun, with much ooing and aahing as the bones are revealed followed by a flood of questions and a great deal of humour. Previous VM_365 posts on prehistoric pottery and human bone themed education activities were made way back on Day 11 and Day 12

VM_365 Day 107 Where have all the fragments gone?

Large Roman jar undergoing reconstruction.
From the ground to gluing tray, large Roman jar undergoing reconstruction.

In the image for VM_365 Day 107, we have one of the last of the vessels from the Roman kitchen at Broadstairs that can be reconstructed. The large jar is shown in the ground during excavation and on the right in the sand tray we use to hold the sherds in place while they are glued together. All of the vessels from the same site shown in the previous VM_365 posts over the last few days have been through this method of reconstruction.

First each sherd must be recovered, located and fitted together in a dry run, to see what order they need to be glued in. The process of sticking the sherds together must be carried out very precisely and in small stages as otherwise the pieces of the vessel may not meet in the middle when the last piece is added.  When the glue is applied the sherds must be held in exact position until the bond is made. Any errors will mean that the next pieces can’t be properly fitted.

The large jar was one of the most obvious near complete vessels within the thick deposit of sherds, however once it was lifted it was clear that it had been broken before it was thrown in and the jar came apart into a number of large pieces. Some of the sherds from one side of the vessel had been spread elsewhere in the deposit and had to be picked out from the spare pieces left over after we had matched as many as possible. We may still be missing a few in the end!

We’ll post more on this vessel once the glue has dried and we can take a proper photograph of the result.

VM_365 Day 69 Environmental Archaeology Workshop Day – September 6th 2014

A medley of images from our environmental archaeology workshop with IOTAS
A medley of images from our environmental archaeology workshop with IOTAS

Following a successful community archaeological excavation at Lord of the Manor Ramsgate in 2013, the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society have been keen to learn more about the post excavation process so that they can progress with writing up and publishing their results.

The Trust has been able to help out with planning a series of workshops, sharing our professional expertise and our resources to introduce the next steps that follow beyond the field work of an archaeological dig.

Today we organised a workshop on environmental archaeology with a practical session in processing samples using our flotation tank. We took the opportunity to run through some stored samples from some interesting contexts from earlier sites which had been put into storage.

One sample processed was the contents of a 3rd century cremation vessel found at a site in Westgate where fine slivers of burnt bone were recovered from the residue, proving that at least a small amount of the cremated remains had survived the heavy disturbance that the site had suffered in later years. More will be learnt form the fine organic material that was floated from the sample, which was hung up to dry in the September sun and will be processed in a few days time.

The day proved to be both educational and sociable with the unexpected provision of cakes and snacks to supplement the flow of tea and conversation on archaeology and the environment.

Archaeology for You 2014, celebrating the National Festival of Archaeology

Although Saturday 12th of July, the day of our fourth annual Archaeology for You event, was preceded by some impressive storms and rain, the wet weather held off for the day.

As in previous years we set up our eight Archaeology for You activity areas on the lawn in the gardens at the front of Quex House. With only some areas under shelters, our fingers were tightly crossed that the weather would stay calm over the day for the activities that were set up in the open air. The upper windows of Quex House provided a convenient vantage point for a photograph to be taken of our team of Trust Staff and volunteers setting up for the event.

Setting up for Archaeology for you 2014
Set up for Archaeology for you 2014, viewed from Quex House

Iron Age and Early Roman re-enactment group De Bello Canzio joined us again this year bringing a sense of the real lives behind the objects from that era that we had on display and our activities were arranged in the form a large circle so that people could progress from experiencing the methods of investigation in the field, toward the interpretation of objects and their use in the Re-living Ancient Life activity area.

Romans from De Bello Canzio with a new recruit to the Legions
Romans from De Bello Canzio with a new recruit to the Legions

The new Archaeology for You logo we launched for the event this year was used on our display boards to guide people to each of the activities.

Our Logo in action on the activity signs
Our Logo in action on the activity signs

This year, each of the areas where methods of practical archaeological investigation were demonstrated was linked by the four corner posts of a 10 metre square, fitted with strings and tapes to demonstrate how grids form the backbone of archaeological research. This formed the arena for the demonstration of site surveying using Geophysical and Aerial Survey in Seeing Beneath the Soil and the hands on Dig and Discover boxes, in their new green livery. The grid took centre stage as the framework for Pictures, Plans and Paperwork, where people could learn about the recording process and for Evidence from Objects where finds could be processed and examined for clues about the past.

Our aim for Archaeology for You is to build a complete experience of the processes that archaeologists use to digs and the methods used to make records and understand the evidence of the past, which anyone can take part in. Many people took part in our Give it a Swirl

Giving an environmental sample a swirl
Giving an environmental sample a swirl

introduction to processing samples taken for environmental evidence and busy potters made pre-historic style vessels at Inspired by the Past. Great imagination was also used to create mosaics that reflected favourite themes from mythology and the modern world.

Every year we try to introduce a new element to the activities at Archaeology for You and in our Bones and Burials area this year we recreated a burial, which had to be carefully excavated and recorded over the day.

With the aid of our other teaching skeleton and books people taking part in activity can get a feel for the complicated digging and recording that is needed to get the most information from each burial that is investigated by archaeologists.

Excavating in the Trust for Thanet Archaeology new skeleton activity
Excavating in the new skeleton activity

Archaeology for You is one of the education activities of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology that is supported by a grant from the Education Committee of the Kent Archaeological Society. The Powell-Cotton Museum is generous in allowing us access to their gardens for the event each year and the Director and staff of the Museum give a great deal of support to the event.

We would like to thank everyone who came along on the day and took part, we learn as much each year from the people who take part in Archaeology for You as they do taking part in our archaeological activities for all ages.

Logo for Archaeology for You

VM_365 Day 13 Archaeology for You

Excavating in the Trust for Thanet Archaeology new skeleton activity
Excavating in the new skeleton activity

Today’s image comes from Archaeology for You, our annual event for the National Festival of Archaeology, held in the gardens of the Powell-Cotton Museum.

It has been a long day for the Trust and our volunteers, with many people taking part in our archaeological activities.

This image is of the new skeleton excavation for our Bones and Burials area. Good fun and some very good and careful excavation carried out by our archaeologists of the future.

If you weren’t there you missed interesting, educational and entertaining day!