Monthly Archives: September 2014

VM_365 Day 93. Decorated Samian sherd from Broadstairs


Today’s image shows a sherd of Roman samian pottery excavated from a small site near Bleak House, Broadstairs in 2009. This was one of 81 sherds of samian pottery recovered on the site representing 33 different vessels.

The piece shown is one of 11 from the same highly decorated bowl (a Dragendorf form 37) from Central Gaul, dated between 100-130 AD. The decoration is  arranged in panels divided by bead borders under an ovolo (egg shaped) border that surrounds the whole bowl.

The images on the vessel show part of a figure of the war god Mars and in a second panel in the upper half of a medallion, a nude pigmy warrior.

These motifs on samian bowls are common to Central Gaul where this bowl was manufactured.


VM_365 Day 92. Promoting Pride in a Prehistoric Presence

Images of Prehistoric Thanet
Images from Prehistoric Thanet

Today’s image for Day 91 of VM_365 is a reminder that Thanet’s past extends long into the prehistoric period. Our archaeological record has some of the most interesting and important evidence of the earliest periods of human settlement.

There is evidence from Thanet from the period of the earliest of our human ancestors, and from the first hunter gatherers who ranged over the landscape after the last Ice Age hundreds of thousands of years later.

There have been archaeological finds from all the periods recognised by prehistorians, from those Mesolithic hunters thorough the Neolithic, Beaker, Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Six thousand years of our human story are represented only by archaeological finds and sites and some of the most important have been discovered on the Isle of Thanet. Prehistory is now part of the school curriculum and it should be in the mind of anyone interested in the long story of the Isle of Thanet.


VM_365 Day 91. Underground Industrial Heritage Revealed

Tunnel Railway signOur post today for VM_365 Day 91 comes from an exciting weekend field trip by the Trust and friends to the Ramsgate Tunnels.

The letters arranged on the wall at the entrance to the chalk passage are from the sign for the Tunnel Railway, as the complex of railway lines and stations came to known.

The site combines a significant experience of the industrial archaeology heritage of the Ramsgate area, with a site associated with the defences of the coastal region in the First  and Second World War. A complex of passages, cut into the chalk to create air raid shelters for thousands of people, encircle the town of Ramsgate and the Ramsgate Tunnels experience allows a long section of the air raid shelters to be explored.

Within the tunnels is preserved the record of the many amateur urban explorers who explored the tunnels while they were closed to general public access. The names, slogans and dates scribbled and painted on the walls show how the Ramsgate tunnels remained in the consciousness of local people, their fascinating history waiting to be brought to life as a very popular public attraction.

VM_365 Day 90. Roman Equal-ended Brooch


Today’s image for VM_365 Day 90 shows another brooch from Abbey Farm Villa, Minster. This equal ended brooch was found in the subsoil above buildings found on the southern side of the villa complex along with a small quantity of 2nd century pottery.
Over time this copper alloy brooch has become corroded but we can still see that it  has a rectangular plate with lugs. The centre has three equal sized rectangular cells filled with enamel; the bottom cell is coloured red, the middle cell is now empty and the top cell appears to have been green or yellow enamel. Either side of the enamelled cells is a side panel with a beaded rim and rectangular lugs at the corners. This type of brooch was widespread in the 2nd and early 3rd century.

VM_365 Day 89. 2nd Century Brooch from Minster, Thanet


Today’s image is of a 2nd/early 3rd century brooch from Abbey Farm Roman Villa, Minster-in-Thanet. It was found in the upper fill of a well shaft which had been deliberately backfilled with large amounts of pottery and domestic rubbish. The pottery from the well shaft dates to the 2nd century with a few sherds as late as the early 3rd century.

The brooch is equal ended with a rectangular plate and two circular lugs. The projections are moulded and decorated with two sets of concentric circles and are broken at either end. In the centre of the brooch is a rectangular cell which was filled with enamel, now coloured yellow. The lugs are also decorated with two circular yellow enamelled cells.

Parfitt, K. 2007. The Roman Villa at Minster-in-Thanet. Part 4: The South-West Buildings, 6A and 6B. Archaeologia Cantiana CXXVII, 261-296.

VM_365 Day 88. Rosette brooch 1st Century AD

Thistle or rosette brooch of 1st century date from Minster in Thanet
Thistle or rosette brooch of 1st century date from Minster in Thanet

Today’s image for VM_365 Day 88  is of a brooch from the 1st century AD, which was found in the excavations at the Abbey Farm Villa at Minster in Thanet. This type of brooch has a cast thistle or rosette form with elaborate relief decoration. A cylindrical roll of metal covers the spring for the fastening pin at the back of the brooch.

This type of brooch was first made in the first half of the 1st century AD, before the Roman conquest of Britain. The rosette or thistle brooch was commonly used on the continent, particularly in Gaul and on the German frontier, as well as in southern Britain before the Roman invasion. This type of brooch is occasionally found on sites that date from shortly after the Roman Conquest and often accompanying burials of the early conquest period.

They may have lasted into the Roman period as family heirlooms, because of their particularly fine style and quality.


Bailey, J. and Butcher, S. 2004. Roman Brooches in Britain. Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London No. 68. London.

VM_365 Day 87. Local materials for local bakers.

Large flint nodule worked into a grinding surface
Large flint nodule worked into a grinding surface

Today’s VM_365 image shows two artefacts from Iron Age sites in Thanet. One is a large stone with a flat grinding surface, found at a large Iron Age settlement site at South Dumpton Down near Broadstairs. The second object is a spherical rubbing or grinding stone, which fits comfortably into the hand, which comes from a contemporary site at North Foreland, Broadstairs.

The two objects demonstrate how local materials, in this case flints from seams within the chalk that underlies both sites, were adapted for tools associated with daily activities. Both objects were transformed by regular working into something quite different to their irregular natural state.

The surface of the larger flint was pecked and ground to a horizontal surface by the rubbing and grinding action that may have taken place every day. The smaller flint was chipped and ground into a sphere through a similar regular striking action, possibly while it was used as a rubbing stone used on a similar flattened surface. Rotating the object in the hand for comfort  probably created the spherical shape over time.

The combination of the two objects, under the power of a human hand, created an abrasive process, which was possibly used to rub grains between the stone to make flour, or to grind other foodstuff into powders or pastes.

VM_365 Day 86. Wooden box stores Roman samian collection

Box stores Roman samian vessels from Drapers Mills, Margate
Box stores Roman samian vessels from Drapers Mills, Margate

Today’s VM_365 image is of a collection of  whole vessels and large sherds made from a disticnctive type of Roman pottery called samian ware.

This selection comes from the archive of the excavation carried out at Drapers Mills near Margate between 1959 and 1961 by Mr Joe Coy. The site is known to have been the location of a major Roman building, probably a Villa, which has produced many interesting finds such as the boxer’s head shown in an earlier post.

Over the years the Trust for Thanet Archaeology has acquired the archives of several early excavations carried out by some of the pioneering archaeologists in Thanet. Although we have been supported with donations from our wish list and with funding for storage material, we have limited resources to do everything we might to understand and examine in detail all the material we have in storage.

When we are able to open up and examine the contents of a box, it can reveal hidden treasures like this group of samian vessels and sherds.  Samian was a high status product, manufactured in very large quantities from the early 1st century to the mid 3rd century AD. Samian producing kilns were located in southern and northern France and later in southern and eastern Germany, which were part of the province of Gaul.

Now this important group of material has been rediscovered, it can be examined and dated using up to date knowledge of the production centres and manufacturers. As more is learned from the material archives, the real significance of the Roman sites we have identified in the map of Roman Thanet becomes clearer.

The pottery in this image was discussed in greater detail by Dr. Steve Willis, a specialist in samian ware, on Day 345 of the VM_365 project. An interesting observation on the parallels between the origins of some of the pottery and the box the material was stored was discussed on on Day_346.


VM_365 Day 85. Bronze Age Incense Cup


This unusual little vessel is a perforated Incense or Accessory cup of Early Bronze Age date. The vessel was found in the late 1970’s in a pit at the centre of a ring ditch which had been partially destroyed by the construction of the Haine Road at Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate.  The ring ditch is one of a group of at least seven Neolithic and Bronze Age Monuments located on a chalk hilltop overlooking Pegwell Bay; one of the major ceremonial sites of prehistoric Thanet.


VM_365 Day 84 Medieval pottery from a refuse pit in Margate

VM 84

Today’s VM_365 image is of a large pottery cauldron or ‘stewing pot’, possibly dating from the 11th to the 13th century (c.1075-1100/1225 AD). The vessel was excavated from a contemporary medieval refuse pit at East Northdown Farm, Margate in 2003. The pit contained  sherds from six or seven pottery vessels, all made of Canterbury Sandy ware fabric, including the one pictured.

The pit also contained a large quantity of animal bones and large lumps of bonded clay and chalk which could have derived from the demolition debris from a nearby structure. Soil samples taken from the pit included fragments of barley, oats and elder, the cereal crops suggesting the agricultural products that were used for human consumption or animal fodder when the broken pot was thrown away.