Monthly Archives: November 2013

Trust for Thanet Archaeology – Review of the Year 2013 for IOTAS at Crampton Tower, Broadstairs

Ges talks about sites...
Ges talks about sites…

Emma and Ges, Director and Deputy Director of the Trust gave an update on the Trust’s activity for 2013 at Crampton Tower in Broadstairs for the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society (IOTAS) on Monday 25th of November.

This informal end of year review took the audience through the ups and downs of a year that followed one of the most difficult periods for our commercial archaeological work, where few new development projects were started in Thanet and consequently only a few new sites producing significant archaeological results. Of course the most important excavation carried out this year was the training dig and archive assessment  at Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate, which was reported in journal entries over the summer and continues with the project to catalogue the archive material.

An overview of the lively education programme that has been run by the Trust over the year was given, illustrated with pictures and videos of some of the key moments, particularly Dig for Three Days and the Eagle Festival organised by Bradstow School in Broadstairs, which was also reported in the journal over the summer. Pictures of the many events over the year featuring our historic costumes, our Roman Soldier’s costume in particular, were also given over the evening. It was also noted that our teaching skeleton, which was donated to the Trust by IOTAS was now the central part of People of the Past, one of our key educational sessions  given at many of the Trust’s schools and other workshop events.

Wishlist items donated by IOTAS
Wishlist items donated by IOTAS

The talk drew attention to the success of our two current publications on local archaeological themes, Underground Thanet and St.Augustine’s First Footfall, which have had steady sales over the year. The imminent arrival of a third book on an important early building style in Thanet was also announced, with more to come on this subject.

IOTAS were thanked for their kind donation from our wishlist, which helps support the Trust in managing our collection of finds,  which consisted of  a timely delivery on Friday of a box of A4 paper and a fine set of weighing scales to replace our rather tired, and possibly somewhat inaccurate, old set.

The evening was punctuated with lighthearted comment and banter with the audience and one or two moments of comedic confusion between the speakers. The talk ended with best wishes being given to all for Christmas and was followed by a short question and answer session and a chance to catch up with old friends and new.

End of year round up...
End of year round up…

Roman Day – St Saviour’s Church of England Junior School, Westgate

We were invited again to take part in the Roman Day held by St. Saviour’s Junior School in Westgate for their Year 3 pupils. Our activities this year marked the beginning of the school project to study the Romans, giving the children a chance to experience the range of archaeological evidence for Roman studies before they take on the subject in greater detail.

Romans, lend me your ears!
Romans, lend me your ears!

The morning began with a short introduction to the team from the Trust and to the methods that archaeologists use to explore and reconstruct Roman life before we split the group into their classes for the morning hands-on activities. Our first sessions of the day involved using our Dig and Discover dig boxes to explore the typical artefacts found on a Roman excavation.

Equipment needed by archaeologists
Equipment needed by archaeologists

We also demonstrated the tools, clothes and equipment that a professional archaeologist needs to use when they are doing their job, encouraging the children to think about the skills and resources that are needed in a work environment. Our third activity explored the changes the Romans brought to Britain with them by exploring the buildings and facilities they introduced to the towns that grew during the Roman period, building a plan of a Roman town as we explored the main innovations of Roman life, such as the forts, roads, markets, theatres and baths that were built in major towns. We also explored the survival of the remains of these structures in towns and the possibility that they can still be seen and visited today.

After a break, we had a rapid run through three table-top museum displays showing some of the real Roman objects that have been found in Thanet and how we use those objects to explore three important themes in the study of the Romans. The lives of the people of the past were explored using our skeleton and small items of clothing and dress as well as the structure of Roman graves that can tell us about personal beliefs and individual stories. A display of pottery and other manufactured or imported artefacts explored how life changed with the innovations in material objects brought to Britain by the Romans. Our third table explored the building materials the Romans introduced to Britain, which are so characteristic of the changes made to the fabric of houses and other buildings in town and country in the Roman period.

Our Roman armour in use again at Westgate
Our Roman armour in use again at Westgate
Forming a tortoise with shields
Forming a tortoise with shields

The afternoon session began with an introduction to the soldiers and auxiliaries of the legions, the first Romans to come to Britain in large numbers,. We recruited a new volunteer to dress in our Roman armour costume and serve as a legionary in the Roman Army. With the new addition to the costume of a Pilum, the throwing spear that was the legionary’s main weapon and a marching pack, the experience of being loaded up with equipment demonstrated that the working life of the soldiers was tough and required great physical strength. We also used the shields to explore the fighting tactics of the legionary, using them to create a defensive wall and forming a ‘tortoise’ to defend the soldiers from incoming projectiles. The rest of the classes filled in a work sheet on Roman Armour with a quiz to see if they could remember the names of the parts of the soldiers armour and uniform.

When the individual soldier had been discussed in detail, we went on to examine the structure of the Roman Army in general, which contributed so much to the conquest and Romanisation of Britain. Three classes of Westgatians were formed into legions, their Cohorts led by Centurions and First Centurions under their Primus Pilus. The three legions, the Westgate Wolves, Legendary Lions and Lions of Fire were paraded under their standards by their Legionary Legates (who used to be teachers in civilian life). Finally, the standards were defended by a small detachment of volunteer guards from three volleys of projectiles launched by one of their rival legions, putting the skills of shield walls and tortoise formation into action against a hail of missiles.

At my command...
At my command…
...unleash the foam projectiles!!
…unleash the foam projectiles!!

The battle over, the disbanded troops were marched back to their classes to allowed home after almost a whole afternoon of hard service in the Westgate Legions. We had a wonderful day at Westgate with so much enthusiastic participation and many interesting questions from the children. We hope we can follow up by providing more study resources as the pupils progress with their study of the Romans in the coming weeks.

Two Book Discount Christmas Offer on Trust Publications

Augustines First Footfall and Underground Thanet book coversIf you haven’t yet got a copy of our two publications, Underground Thanet and St. Augustine’s First Footfall we have a special Christmas offer.

You can order both publications together for a special price of £ 17.30 including postage and packing (the books are usually sold individually for £ 9.99 +postage and packing).

These books are ideal as Christmas presents for any friends and family that you want to introduce to the rich history and archaeology of the Isle of Thanet. The discount offer is available until the last first class post before Christmas in your area, although you may need to order early if you want to send the books as gifts.

You can find out more about the books and order your copies  from our Publication list here: publication list or download the PDF order form to order by post here: Christmas offer order form

Lord of the Manor/Ozengell excavation archive project

As part of the project we began in the summer to review the archaeology of an important site at Lord of the Manor Ramsgate, another part of the project has started to review the archives for the previous excavations.
The problem with old archaeological archives is paper. For the Ozengell and Lord of the Manor sites we have envelopes files and folders stuffed with paper in a range of sizes from large scale drawings to typescripts and hand written notes, among many other resources like large X-ray plates.

Working on the Ozengell excavation archives
Working on the Ozengell excavation archives

Paper records take up valuable space and are not as easily accessible in the way that modern technology has made digital information accessible. Where the paper records, stored as they are, can be a slow and stagnant source of information, digital archives can be accessed by many people simultaneously and used for many different purposes.

One problem with old archives is that over the years things get moved around and put out of order. Things that didn’t seem so important suddenly become more valuable. Old letters and correspondence can contain crucial pieces of information which were once part of everyday experience, then became part of a shared memory among those who took part. Finally, when everyone who was there has lost touch or is no longer with us, the written records of that shared experience become our only way to experience some of the important details of the dig. Handwritten notes also let us into the minds of our friends and colleagues who collected such a wealth of experience, which has been lost to us now.

Why do we need to do this review and digitising of the archive?
We need this resource so that we can continue to question the data that was generated. Were the people who excavated the site right in their interpretation? Was there information that they missed which lies unrecognised in the archive because our attention was focused elsewhere?

When the archive is brought to life as digital resource we can have many more eyes and minds brought to bear on the problems, to be able to re-explore the site many times over. With the records in order, as a digital resource we can generate many more questions and answers about this valuable resource that can tell us so much about our past.

Trinity Holiday Club

The Holiday Club at the Trinity Resource Centre in Margate was the scene of another day of archaeological activities on Friday 1st of November.

Keystone mosaic pattern
Keystone mosaic

The Dig and Discover boxes were popular as usual, as was the chance to learn about the people of the past, with our skeleton and an impressive re-enactment of the burial of an important Anglo-Saxon warrior, with a discussion of just what might be found of the remains of the impressive costume and weapons the warrior carried.

We had some fine mosaics made with great patience and care, following the keystone pattern examples from Greek and Roman mosaics.

Once again we had a really interesting day with our friends at the Trinity Holiday club and we were pleased to be given a fine hand-made Thank You card from all the participants.

Our pottery making activity saw some ambitious creations, with a two piece set of a cup and tea pot as well as some excellent pots based on the forms and decorations of ancient pottery.

Making a thumb pot
Thumb pot under way
Finished prehistoric style thumb pot
The finished thumb pot – in the prehistoric style
A pot decorated in prehistoric style
A pot decorated in prehistoric style

Autumn garden fun

Birthday treat Full English in the Antoinette Centre Garden
Birthday treat Full English in the Antoinette Centre Garden

In a warm interlude in October we were able to celebrate a birthday in the garden at the Antoinette Centre, rustling up a respectable Full English in the garden with our little camping stove.

Spiders web covered in dew
Dewey web of Autumn

And, despite the cold weather creeping in to the estate, which left this beautiful spiders web covered in dew in the morning when we arrived for work.

Despite the onset of Autumn and Winter, the harvest of exotic fruits struggles on in the CultiCave in our garden at the Antoinette Centre, with these lovely Cayenne peppers the latest contribution to our collective table, which are bound to generate a warming effect later in the year.
Perhaps a mid-winter barbecue is suggesting itself?

Home grown Cayenne peppers
Chilli times ahead in the Autumn