Category Archives: Art Inspired by the Past

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 265 Art inspired by the Lord of the Manor prehistoric archaeology

VM 265

The image for today’s post on Day 265 of the VM_365 project is an illustration by the Trust’s first Director David Perkins, inspired, as much of his work was,  by the landscape and prehistoric archaeology of Lord of the Manor Ramsgate.

The archaeological excavations that were carried out to explore the many features that were revealed by aerial photography in the area near Lord of the Manor were very significant to understanding the scale of prehistoric settlement in Thanet.

Using their experience of digging several of the major sites  revealed in the Landscape, both Dave Perkins and Len Jay used their artistic skills to record their activities and to interpret the sites they  were uncovering.

The coloured drawing  by Dave Perkins recreates a scene associated with the insertion of a new burial into the mound of one of the prehistoric round barrows located at the crest of the hill, an event that was attested in the archaeological record.

The stark white of the chalk that lies  at a shallow depth below the soil are visible in the cut of the ring ditch and the central mound where it was cast over a primary burial located at the centre. Baskets and shovels show that the ditch has been newly cleaned to refresh the surface of the chalk. The scene shows the mound as having been partly removed, so that another burial can be inserted within the circuit of the ditch. The later burial is perhaps that of a member of family who wishes to be close to a relative, or perhaps a clan member who wants to remind his followers of the source of his power. The burial may be of an unrelated individual who want to claim a connection with the glories of a bygone age. Grieving family members, along with warriors and perhaps elders of the clan are shown outside the ring ditch, while the person to be buried is carried across the ditch to the new grave.

Although the drawing reflects  the archaeological facts that were established from the sequence recovered from the ground, the truth of the scene’s representation of Bronze Age culture can never be known as there are no records to guide our interpretation with certainty.

VM_365 Day 240 Reconstruction of Roman cremation burial at Thorne

Reconstruction of 1st century Roman cremation at Thorne
Reconstruction of 1st century Roman cremation at Thorne

The image for Day 240 of the VM_365 project is of an artists reconstruction of the child’s grave, containing cremated remains and accessory vessels, based on one (Grave 5) excavated on a gas pipeline near Thorne, near Minster in Thanet, which was shown on Day 239. The painting is by Len Jay whose work reconstructing images from the Anglo-Saxon archaeology of Thanet, which he helped to discover, have featured in previous VM_365 posts on Day 216 and Day 217.

The image shows the rectangular pit being prepared to receive the pot containing the cremation, with the accessory vessels already in place. The grave has been excavated with a wooden shovel, strengthened by an iron blade added to the tip. On the left of the pit there is a heap of chalk from the geology that has been exposed below a thin covering of soil.   Human bones are present in the chalk, reflecting the many thousands of years that the landscape was used to create funerary monuments and the fact that successive generations often disturbed the remains of those that came before them, accidentally or deliberately.

On the left of the group of figures  surrounding the grave, a child is about to add a plate of food to accompany the vessels. Organic remains like food are something which we can not now detect through archaeology except in the rarest of circumstances, but the vessels imply that such perishable things were placed with the remains. The girl is comforted by a boy to her right and a dog howls into the air.

The burial of the cremated remains takes place on the crest of the ridge which forms the backbone of Thanet’s chalk landscape,  in the top right a sailing vessel is shown in the Wantsum channel  which is overlooked by the ridge. In the top right small figures tend a flock of sheep on the crest of the ridge. The prevailing wind that swept the open downland ridge, blowing the hair of the group to the left is still notable in the present day.

A cremation burial is simply the gathered ashes of a burnt body, that was arranged with vessels and other objects according to prevailing beliefs and sealed below a covering of soil, forming a lasting memorial to the person buried. The burning of a body is taking place in the background of this image on the crest of the ridge, using the wind to accelerate the wood fuelled fire so it could reach the temperatures that were necessary to reduce the body to ashes.

The landscape in this picture is recognisable to anyone who knows Thanet well, although it has changed considerably in recent years. However the details of the scene may reflect accurate archaeological data, it is still evocative of a distant time and of the human stories behind the objects that we recover as archaeological artefacts.

VM_365 Day 216 Art and Anglo-Saxon archaeology

VM 216

The image for Day 216 of the VM_365 project is drawn from our slide collection, with reproductions of a series of sketches illustrating aspects of the archaeology of the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries that are such a significant part of Thanet’s archaeological landscape.

Thanet has been lucky to have had several talented illustrators among its archaeological community.  A drawing by the Trust’s first Director Dave Perkins featured on Day 111 of the VM_365 project. Today’s images were drawn by Len Jay, a founding member of the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit, the predecessor of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology and the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society. Len Jay was a trained artist and used his abilities to create imaginative illustrations of some of the significant aspects of the archaeology that the Thanet Unit became involved in.

The images in today’s post illustrate a common phenomenon encountered during the investigation of Early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries where archaeologists began to discover that they were not always the first to have dug into the graves furnished with valuable  goods such as weapons, items of jewellery, clothing and vessels in pottery and glass. It is now recognised that many early Anglo-Saxon graves that were were robbed not long after they had been created.

The upper part of the image in today’s post shows a section through a recently created grave, with its occupant dressed in typical costume and accompanied with a shield, sword and knife. In the distance the family are leaving the graveside. In the lower image, two grave robbers have excavated a pit into the centre of the mound that marks the site of the grave, piling the spoil in a heap. They too are seen making a hasty exit with the objects they have recovered.

Grave robbing at an early period has been recognised in many of the large early medieval cemeteries of northern Europe and the phenomenon extends to the cemeteries of East Kent. Although initially it may seem that the motives are relatively simple, recent study has started to consider whether the practise has more complex meanings, perhaps associated with the growth of Christianity and the ambiguous relationship of the converted population with the pagan graves of the pre-Christian era.

Len Jay used his talents as an artist to visualise the processes that were being observed in excavations and explored their meaning through his visual representation, which complemented the body of written material that was also being generated.


VM_365 Day 3

Fragment of Romano-British mosaic
Fragment of Romano-British mosaic from Minster in Thanet

The image for our VM_365 project today is of a fragment of Roman Mosaic with part of a guilloche pattern that was found in the excavation of a Roman Villa at Minster in Thanet.

One of the most impressive Roman buildings to have been discovered on the Isle of Thanet to date and almost certainly on of the most important places in the area in the Roman period.

VM 3-1
Mosaic fragment in its storage container

Several of these small fragments of Mosaic from the excavation are in storage, but there were no floors of any size surviving in the excavated remains of the villa. The pieces we have survived because they had been broken up and had fallen into a deep chamber within the northern apse of the building.

This architectural model is one of our attempts to show what the building was like in one of its major periods of use.

It is useful to try to reconstruct the shape and size of the Villa building with its main range, wings and detached bath house building, which was served by its own piped water supply.

With only the ground plan visible from the robbed remains of walls it is difficult to know exactly what the structure of the building was like, but with the few mosaic fragments we have, we can at least assume that like other buildings of the period it had several of these grand decorative surfaces. The full history of the building and the details of exactly who may have lived in and around it will probably remain unknown.


VM_365 Starts Here

An Image a day from the Virtual Museum of Thanet’s Archaeology

Our VM_365 project will present one image a day, each day for the next year, on themes Virtual-Museum-Logorelated to our Virtual Museum of Thanet’s Archaeology.

As archaeologists we often have a camera handy to record those unexpected moments when something new emerges from the ground, or from our collection of artefacts. Whether its capturing an image outdoors on a site, or in one of the darker recesses of the museum storage boxes or having the opportunity to take a fresh look at something we take for granted, we will post an in image in our project each day.

Choosing the image we post each day will be a chance to stretch our imagination in  illustrating the world of archaeology and our important local heritage. Over the course of the year we may develop themes with a series of pictures, or just take a one off chance to explore a subject.

We have some ideas in mind already of images we want to show, others will come to us as the project goes on. Some of our images may be taken quickly, capturing a valuable moment as the opportunity arises and some will use the rich resources of images we have in our archives. Whatever the circumstances the project will present something interesting, fun and thought provoking each day.

Check in through our Twitter and FaceBook pages, or here on our journal where you will find more notes or detailed background to the images.

We would love to have your feedback and comments on the images over the duration of VM_365, we start today!

The first image we would like you to see is the new VM_365 logo which will accompany the images over the year. Like it?

VM_356 project logo
Our first image, the new VM_356 Logo

Printing a medley of Margate stories

Image of Margate Medley publication
Margate Medley ready to go!

We’ve been able to use our publishing skills to help out with a project organised by Margate Civic Society,

A while ago we bought a nifty laser printer that is able to produce small booklets automatically, letting us produce short run publications for ourselves and others. Its a little labour intensive, as we have to fold and staple each copy by hand and then press them for a few hours. A bit of an old school publishing practice.

This week the Trust has been rolling out a new publication from our presses on behalf of the Margate Civic Society, printing and binding copies of a small publication called Margate Medley, packed with snippets from Margate’s history. It has a short article by the Trust’s Director on the history of Margate Pier, based on the talk she gave at our 25th Anniversary conference last year. There are many other interesting pieces on historical sites and events that have contributed to Margate’s unique character.

The book is for sale at £2.50 from Margate Civic Society, or at the Time Ball celebration events. Proceeds from the sales will support the Civic Society and their Fund Raising for the Time Ball project and other local activities.

Mortarium mystery revealed – #MuseumWeek #AskThe Curator

Mortaria Mixup
Mortaria Mixup

Tuesday’s curatorial conundrum from the Virtual Museum of Thanet’s Archaeology is finally answered.

The two questions we asked were; What on earth is it? and Who made it?, the answers to both can be found by looking at the pictures.

The pictures we posted were of a type of Roman mixing bowl, called a Mortarium. The example we have in our collection was found in the excavation of the Roman Villa at Abbey Farm, Minster in Thanet. Two of the sections of the image show the stamps on the rim that allow us to identify the manufacturer, although part of the stamp is damaged and part of the name is unreadable.

The mortarium was made in the factory of MATUGENUS, the name shown in two parts in the first stamp. The second stamp reads FECIT, that is ‘he made it’ in Latin.

Manufactururs stamp on Roman Mortarium
The stamp reads MATUG ENUS in two parts

Matugenus is a well known manufacturer, working near Verulamium, the Roman town near St.Albans in Hertfordshire between 80 and 125AD. Stamps tell us that Matugenus was the son of an earlier maker of mortaria, Albinus.

These heavy clay mixing bowls with their distinctive thick lipped pouring spouts were covered on their inner surface with find grits, embedded in the dense yellowish brown fabrics of the clays they were made from.

In the case of the vessel from Minster, the grits had been worn down so far the surface was nearly flat, and it is very likely the base of the vessel had been almost rubbed through, allowing it to break and leaving a large hole in base before it was finally smashed and cast with other rubbish into the outer boundary ditch to the north of the villa. The sherds of the vessel had not moved far and were found in a tight group that allowed the vessel to be nearly completely reconstructed after the dig.

Matugenus made this Mortarium - it says so on the tin
Matugenus made this Mortarium – it says so on the tin