Category Archives: Margate

VM_365 Day 315 Middle Iron Age Pottery lid used in slow cooking, Tivoli, Margate

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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.

A series of small test pit excavations by the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society were carried out in the mid-late 2000’s and were designed to find further traces of the Tivoli Roman ‘villa’  which featured  on Day 77 of the VM_365 project  and was previously recorded by Dr. Arthur Rowe.  Little material associated with the villa was recovered but instead the investigations produced a rare sequence of earlier Iron Age activity.

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.

VM_365 Day 304 Tiny ceramic tazza, Roman temple near Margate?

VM 304The image for Day 304 of the VM_365 project shows two images of a group of small ceramic vessels of a type  that have been called tazza, a term derived from the Italian word for a cup. The image on the left shows the upper surface of the vessels, the right hand image shows the bases of three of them.

The term Tazza occurs in archaeological literature mainly in reference to elegant Late Iron Age and Early Roman pedestalled cups or goblets of Gallo-Belgic origin. The vessel design is ultimately stimulated by Roman originals and their British counterparts in Late Iron Age grog-tempered ‘Belgic’ style. The term tazzeti occurs less frequently but has been used in reference to the cluster of little saucer-like vessels shown in the images.

Seven of these small tazzetti, complete or broken, were recovered from an excavation in the 1980s near the Sunken Gardens at Westbrook, which was led by David Perkins. The vessels are wheel-made. The image on the right shows the characteristic whorl, typical of many wheel made pots, on the upturned bases of three of the pots that show the whorls most clearly.
The tiny cups are made in a sandy fabric, very similar to the products of many Roman pottery kilns in Canterbury made between c.75-175 AD.  They fact that they are not very hard-fired suggests a likely manufacturing date between c.75 or 100-150 AD.
But what were they used for? There is no certain answer.
The small cups are a rare vessel type and nothing quite like these has been found in Thanet or the East Kent region before. The only clues may lie among the finds associated with the cups which include several fragments of pseudo-marble wall facing and a small rounded quartz pebble. Perhaps the quartz pebble could is no more than an object picked up by a child from the  beach nearby, but the rounded and semi-translucent nature of the pebble might have been considered ‘special’ by an adult.
The occurrence of both the unusual little dishes and the pseudo marble  seems altogether different and  ‘special’. The ‘marble’ is not true marble, but is composed of broken fragments of genuine red and green marble deliberately added to a fine white mortar, which is polished so that the whole mix of small inclusions shines like genuine colour-flecked marble. A similar technique called Terazzo is still used to create wall and floor finishes.
The marble finish suggests the presence of a building with a pretension to opulence,  although the community was not rich enough to afford the real thing but had enough resources to have a reasonable facsimile created. In turn this suggests that the ‘marble’ fragments could come from the wall of a domestic shrine belonging to a fairly well-to-do family, or just possibly a public shrine or temple.
Whatever the context of discovery, a reasonable explanation for the use of these little vessels in the Roman period is as little offering dishes

VM_365 Day 295 The medium is the message…

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Today’s image for Day 295 of the VM_365 project shows some examples of the paper bags from the archive box , which contained sherds of pottery from the Seacroft Road dig from 1965 that we have been examining in posts for Day 292, Day 293 and Day 294 of the VM_365 project. The paper bags are the next step of understanding what the archive holds and we have been cataloguing the contents and repackaging them into archivally stable polythene bags.

The paper bags date from the 1960’s and possibly 1970’s and are historic artefacts in their own right. Two are from specific Margate local businesses, W. M. Caton, a baker in Upper Dane Road, Margate (top left) and Thorton Bobby Ltd  (bottom left and middle) a long established electrical goods business in Northdown Road.

The bag from WM Caton, a bakery business which no longer exists, advertises ‘Delicious cakes and Pastries. Bride, Brirthday and Celebration Cakes our speciality’ and apart from their head office and Bakery at Upper Dane Road also advertises three other Margate based outlets of the business, two on Northdown Road and one in Tivoli Road.

The bag from Thorton Bobby Ltd advertises that they sell records ‘Popular and Classical’ and ‘Hi-Fi Equipment and Tape Recorders’ in their two shops in Northdown Road and Queen Street, Margate. Thorton Bobby still operates in Margate and branched out into selling electrical goods, not just records and Hi-Fi equipment  although it is now known as Euronics Thornton Bobby.

The other bags advertise specific brands including Brooke Bond tea ‘A picture card in every packet’ and ‘Tea you can really taste’, NPU Chemists ‘Shop where you see this sign’ and the symbol of the independent Chemist’ and Hovis ‘Christmas Greetings’ and ‘Don’t just say brown… say Hovis’. The Brooke Bond and Hovis bags were probably from local grocery shops where the majority of people would have obtained their groceries before the expansion of supermarket chains and large everything-under-one-roof superstores.

More importantly for the purposes of the archaeological archive, a few of the paper bags had information about their contents written on them in pencil. The Thorton Bobby bag (centre bottom)  was inscribed ‘Gully B5’ in pencil and this has been transcribed onto the new packaging in case it helps to understand where the material came from. When an archive of this age is examined, it is important to examine all aspects of it, including what might appear to be ephemeral or expedient packaging. A note written in haste on a bag picked up from a local shop may just hold the clue to the significance of the contents or the whole archive.


VM_365 Day 261 Two sides to Archaeology at Drapers Mills Margate

VM 261The image for Day 261 of the VM_365 project shows two aspects of the archaeology of Drapers Mills, Margate, both from very different periods but occupying the same landscape.

In the foreground of the image the excavation of a Late Iron Age or Early Roman enclosure is taking place on the playing field of a school. The ditched enclosure is located on the periphery of the site of a Romano-British villa, which was disturbed by the construction of the school in the 1930’s and investigated by excavations between 1959 and 1961 and again in 1981.  The villa probably replaced a small Iron Age settlement, which lay within the enclosure ditch. A filled in chalk quarry from the Roman period in the 2nd century AD, located near the houses to the right of the mill in the image, produced the cast bronze head of a boxer which appeared in the image for Day 17 of the VM_365 project. A wooden box storing a collection of the samian pottery from the villa excavations of 1959 to 1961 in the same area featured in VM_365 Day 86.

In the background at the centre of the image is Draper’s Mill, a smock mill constructed in 1845 by the Canterbury millwright John Holman. A smock mill has a sloping body, with a cap at the top that rotates so that the sails can be turned to face the wind. The windmill is the last survivor of three mid 19th century windmills that that once stood together on this rounded downland hilltop. Draper’s Mill was threatened with demolition in 1965, but was saved and restored in 1968.

Early maps show windmills occupying the hilltop near Drapers Mill as early as the 17th century, and it is likely that there were earlier post mills near the site in the medieval period, standing on similar trestle platforms and possibly within circular enclosures,  to those at St. Peters and Sarre that were shown on VM_365 Day 259 and Day 260. The hilltop site overlooking the bay at Margate has been occupied for many thousands of years and its history is written in the archaeological record, both above and below ground.

VM_365 Day 226 La Tène style pottery from Margate

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Today’s image for Day 226 of the VM_365 project shows two different views of the upper part of a Middle Iron Age pot decorated with geometric patterns in the distinctive continental La Tène style.

La Tène was a culture with its own distinctive decorative style which developed in Europe during the Iron Age and is named after the Swiss site where evidence of it  was first discovered  in 1857. The La Tène culture flourished in the area north of the Alps around Belgium, Eastern France, Switzerland, Austria, Southern Germany, the Czech republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania. Artefacts influenced by this style are found in Britain and parts of Ireland.

The vessel was found in excavations by Dr Arthur Rowe in 1924 at Tivoli, Margate and was  probably made locally,  influenced by the continental style. Other continentally influenced vessels have been found at Margate, with the pattern picked out in red paint, found at Fort Hill on the eastern side of Margate during excavations in the 2000’s.

VM_365 Day 224 Comb decorated Late Iron Age vessel from Margate

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The VM_365 post for Day 224 is of the reconstructed upper body of a comb decorated Late Iron Age vessel, found in an excavation at Hartsdown, Margate.

The post for Day 223 showed how a new trend for comb decoration on vessels made of fabric tempered with grog emerged in the Late Iron Age and continued into the Roman period. Typical vessels of the new ‘Belgic’ style pottery were cooking and storage vessels like the bead rim jars shown in yesterdays post and the reconstructed jar shown today.

The jar rim is everted, a term that describes a curved or straight rim that leans outward from the upper edge of the vessel. The  vessel has been decorated with three shallow horizontal grooves at the upper shoulder, which create the impression of  raised beads. The rim and upper body are burnished to a low sheen and the lower part of the body is decorated all over with oblique curved stripes, formed with a narrow toothed comb.

Close examination of vessels of this type help to reconstruct the range of potting techniques and decorative schemes that were introduced in the Late Iron Age.

VM_365 Day 214 Neolithic Serrated Flint blade from Margate

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The VM_365 project’s image for Day 214 is a fine, serrated flint blade excavated from a pit dating to the Neolithic period on a site near Margate Railway Station in 2004.

The  blade is fine, partly-worn and serrated along both edges with approximately 11 serrations per 10mm.  The fine blade shows some wear indicating that it has seen some use. It has a break at the proximal-end which has removed the striking platform and crushing along the ridge of the blade along with a couple of notches taken out of one edge suggest that the blade had been hafted or mounted on a handle.

The fine serrations distributed so regularly along both edges of this blade attest to the skill and craft of the Neolithic flint worker.


VM_365 Day 208 Three glass vessels from Margate with a tale to tell

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Today’s VM_365 image for Day 208 of the project shows three glass vessels which were part of the Rowe Bequest, a collection donated to the people of Margate by Dr Arthur Rowe.

In 1986, David Perkins, the first Director of the Trust for Thanet Archaeology, was involved in cataloguing the artefacts belonging to the Rowe Bequest which had been housed in the Old Margate Museum prior to the Second World War. A number of the artefacts in the Rowe Bequest were associated with the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Half Mile Ride, Margate. Using  Rowe’s notes and modern archaeological research, Perkins was able to publish a reappraisal of the cemetery in the county journal.

While cataloguing the items, Dave Perkins identified the three glass vessels, pictured above, which had been packed along with the artefacts from the Half Mile Ride collection but were not been mentioned in the museum records.

The first of the vessels (on the left) is a green glass Base Cup dating to around the 7th century. A stand obscures the pointed base of the vessel in the photograph; it was originally manufactured so that the contents of the vessel had to be fully consumed before it could be put down on its rim. Perkins confirmed that the Base Cup was from one of the graves of the Half Mile Ride cemetery.

Despite being from two seperate vessels of different dates, the two other fragments shown in the centre and on the right, had been reconstructed incorrectly to form a ‘single’ vessel and had been described in the old catalogue as Roman, suggesting they were probably from the Twenties Brickfield approximatley 300 metres to the north west of the Half Mile Ride graves. Dave Perkins was able to show that this catalogue entry was not right.

The body and base on the right are from the lower part of a flask of thick blue green glass dating to the Roman period. The rim and neck in the centre are actually from a clear glass pouch bottle with glass thread decoration around the neck,  actually of Anglo Saxon date. The pouch bottle also dates to around the 7th century. Perkins was able to confirm that it also came from the Half Mile Ride cemetery.


Perkins, D. R. J. 2000. Jutish Glass Production in Kent: And the Problem of the Base Cups. Archaeologia Cantiana CXX, 297-310.

Perkins, D. R. J. 1987. The Jutish Cemetery at Half Mile Ride, Margate: A Re-appraisal. Archaeologia Cantiana CIV, 219-236.


VM_365 Day 201 Memories of metal on ring stamped Bronze Age pottery from Margate

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Today’s image is of a decorative motif on a piece of  pottery from the transitional period between the Middle and later Bronze Age.

The sherd from a vessel closely related to the one shown in Day 199, which contained the Birchington Bronze Hoard. Close inspection of the globular bowl from Birchington shows that it was decorated with a horizontal row of stamped rings, following the centre line of the body.

The sherd shown in the VM_365  image today is from another similar flint and grog tempered vessel, this time from Margate. The Margate pot is also likely to have been decorated with a single row of stamps from an object carved with a series of raised concentric circles. The stamping was added after the outer skin of the pot had been burnished to a smooth finish. On the current evidence – including the dating of the hoard from within the Birchington bowl the date of the vessel the sherd came from and other pots like this should be placed between c.1350-1150 BC.

Like much of the decoration applied to Bronze Age pottery, the ring pattern is thought to be skeuomorphic,  each of the stamped rings emulating the rivets that would have joined two sections of a bronze bowl into a globular shape.

A bronze cauldron  that was found at Shipton on Cherwell in Oxfordshire which is now in the Ashmolean Museum, gives an idea of the riveting patterns on bronze vessels that may have inspired the ring stamp motif on the pots from Birchington and Margate.


VM_365 Day 192 One tool, many styles in range of Mid Iron Age vessels

Comb and impress decorated Middle Iron Age sherds from Thanet
Comb and impress decorated Middle Iron Age sherds from Thanet
Today’s image for Day 192 of VM_365 shows several sherds of decorated Early-Mid Iron Age ceramic vessels, dating from c.550-350 BC.
All the sherds are from relatively high quality vessels, finewares or sub-finewares , which have been decorated with either comb-point, comb-finished or impress-decorations.
The sherds were all found on excavations in Thanet, (shown clockwise from top left) from Margate, South Dumpton Down near Broadstairs and two from Fort Hill and Trinity Square in Margate.

The images illustrate the variety of decorative styles that could be created using a comb, or with a regular impressed pattern,

and illustrate the care that was taken over decorating the better quality pottery vessels in this period in prehistory.