Today’s VM 365 image for Day 124 is of two loomweights that were found among the soil and rubbish used to backfill an abandoned grain storage pit at North Foreland, Broadstairs, one of two similar pits that were found near to each other. The other pit had been used later to bury a woman in the upper part of the cut.
The loom weights were found in the upper fills of the pit, among pottery dating to the middle Iron Age. Other domestic waste in the pit fill included animal bone, marine shells, flint, daub, charcoal, and burnt and charred grain and chaff from species such as oats, barley, wheat and spelt.
The loomweights were carved from chalk, which may have been picked up from the coast nearby. The weights may not have been used before they were dumped in the pit with the other rubbish. One weight was certainly unfinished as the hole in the centre did not penetrate all the way through the chalk and must have abandoned while it was still being worked on.
At first glance the pin, which was also found in close association with the skeleton, appears to be a much simpler object than the exotic glass beads, but it has a more complex story to tell.
The pin is carved from a piece of dense bone, or possibly ivory. The shaft has been carved to taper toward a point, which has unfortunately broken off. Close examination of the surface of the shaft reveals fine facets along the length. The whole surface of the pin was polished to a smooth sheen. At one end the pin was flattened to form a head and on the side shown in the image the head was decorated with three incised lines.
This object could possibly have been a dress fitting or even a hair pin, another indicator that the woman buried had some status and was not simply thrown in the pit with other unwanted debris.
The image for VM 365 Day 122 shows in greater detail the Iron Age chalk plaster blocks found in at the base of an abandoned grain storage pit at North Foreland, shown yesterday under excavation. The scales in the images above are all 10 centimetres long.
A chalk paste had been used to make a form of plaster which had been spread over a timber structure, much like the clay daub that was often used in other places. Although the timber itself had rotted away, some of the blocks still had distinct voids and impressions that had been formed by the rods and sails of the supporting framework of wooden stakes.
An impression of a possible timber structure identified near the mouth of the pit suggests that these blocks may have formed part of a lining for the pit, or alternatively part of a superstructure built around the upper opening to the pit. The blocks were tipped into the pit in pieces and covered with rubbish once it it was no longer used as a grain store.
Each of the blocks in the image above preserves a ghost of a timber stake in the voids left in the plaster that was spread around it. The dry chalky conditions of Thanet’s soils do not often preserve organic materials and finding a piece of timber that was two thousand years old would be a remarkable discovery. The closest we are likely to get are the negative ghost timbers that were preserved in these blocks of structural material at North Foreland.
Today’s image for VM 365 Day 121 shows a number of large blocks of moulded chalk paste at the base of an early to middle Iron Age pit at North Foreland, Broadstairs, under excavation in 2003.
The pit was 1.38 metres deep, with a bell shaped profile. The diameter at the surface measured 1.66 metres, widening to 1.9 metres at the base. The pit was originally dug to store grain, the earliest fills containing large quantities of burnt and charred seeds, chaff, and grain of species including barley, spelt, emmer and oat.
Sealed between two of the earliest fills were the blocks of moulded chalk paste, used as a form of lime plaster to cover a structure. After the blocks had been dumped in the base, the pit was used as a rubbish pit, with artefacts including pottery, animal bone, marine shell and fragments of quern stone being tipped in until it was completely filled.
Later a woman was buried in the upper section of the pit, probably after it had been partly cleared of the dumped debris. The grave was covered over with more material derived from the surrounding settlement.
The chalk blocks are important as they represent some of the only evidence we have for what the structures in the surrounding settlement that created this storage pit might have been made of. All other traces of the above ground Iron Age structures were eroded away over time, leaving only the below ground elements of pits, ditches and post holes to be excavated by the archaeologists.
Today’s image for VM 365 Day 120 shows two decorated strap ends found in grave 276 at Sarre in 1990.
These were the only objects found in the grave that had been heavily disturbed, probably in the Anglo Saxon period. All the skeletal remains were piled at one end and it was not possible to determine the sex or age of the individual from the bones that survived.
These bronze strap ends are a matching pair and have been beautifully decorated with a ring and dot motif. Similar strap ends have been found in grave 98 at the Bucklands cemetery at Dover although the Sarre examples are more ornate.
Day 119’s image shows the remains of an Anglo Saxon spearhead from grave 283 at Sarre.
The grave was very shallow, measuring only 0.24 metres deep and had been disturbed or robbed in antiquity probably in the Anglo Saxon period. Only a few of the bones of the skeleton of an adult male aged over 30 years old remained in situ.
The original position of the spearhead in the grave is unknown and it was later dislodged from the grave fill when it was cleared by the mechanical excavator before hand excavation. The spearhead would most likely have originally been located near the skull along one side of the grave edge as is common with other undisturbed graves.
The part where the spearhead was attached to the wooden shaft, the ferrule, is relativley well preserved and wood impressions of the shaft are visible on the inside of the corroded metal. The spearhead is of 6th century date, conforming to Swanton’s E4 type. Five others were found when graves from the same cemetery were excavated in the 19th century by John Brent.
Perkins, D. R. J. 1992. The Jutish Cemetery at Sarre Revisited: Part II. Archaeologia Cantiana Volume CX, 83-120.
Swanton, M. J. 1974. A Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Spear Types. British Archaeological Reports 4.
Today’s VM 365 Day 118 image is of the remains of a sixth century type shield boss found within a grave at the Monkton Anglo Saxon cemetery during pipeline work in 1982.
The shield boss was found in the grave of an adult male which had been heavily disturbed by ploughing. Only 12 centimetres of the grave’s depth remained intact. Despite the disturbance, iron shield-grip fragments, a sword blade, bronze buckle, whet stone and a gold bracteate were also recovered from the grave.
The shield boss fragments were located between the right elbow and left shoulder and would have been attached to a wooden shield which was laid over the body during burial.
Today’s image for Day 117 of VM_365 is of an Anglo Saxon Sword and an X-Ray taken when it was being conserved.
The sword was excavated from grave 275 at the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Sarre in 1990. Measuring 0.9 metres long, the sword was found above the skeleton of an adult male aged between 25 to 30 years old and may have been laid on a coffin lid rather than next to the body.
The X-Ray revealed a faint herringbone shadow indicating pattern-welded construction with added cutting edges. The tang and shoulder of the blade show traces of a hilt and guard, probably of bone, while the downward side of the blade retained evidence of a wooden scabbard.
The end of the tang was associated with the fragmentary remains of an iron ring suggesting this was a ring-hilted sword, although without the decorative hilt furniture usually associated with swords of this type.
Today’s image is of a tiny decorated buckle found at the Anglo Saxon cemetery at Sarre, near Birchington in 1990. It was found within grave 288, disturbed in antiquity, with the bones of the skeleton, possibly a male aged 30-35 years, piled at the foot of the grave.
This small buckle dating to the 6th-7th century is made of bronze with a folded rectangular plate fastened by three rivets. It would have been mounted on a strap rather than a belt as the loop could only accept a strap end less than 10mm wide. It is decorated with incised lines, punched rings and lines of punched dots. Buckles of this form are common but as they are more usually plain, this decorated example is slightly more unusual.
Perkins, D. R. J. 1992. The Jutish Cemetery at Sarre Revisited: Part II. Archaeologia Cantiana CX, 83-120.
Following on from Day 110 and Day 114’s Iron Age woollen cloth making theme, today’s image is of a fired clay Iron Age Loom weight found at Northdown, Margate during excavations in 1971.
Simple warp weighted looms designed to stand against the wall were commonly used to weave cloth during this period. The loom weights, such as the one shown above, were tied to the bottom of the warp (vertical) threads to add tension whilst the cloth was being woven.