Monthly Archives: January 2015

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 215 Roman military buckle from Broadstairs building

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The  image for Day 125 is of a copper alloy object, found in the the excavation of a Roman building at Broadstairs.

On two sides of a square flat frame (top and bottom in the image) there are the remains of attachments  for a central panel of decorative openwork which is now missing. The X-Ray image on thetop right of the image shows the attachments in finer detail  A leather belt strap would have been hooked over the outer frame, under the patterned centre and over the frame again, creating a decorative adjustable buckle for the belt.

Although the connecting attachments of the openwork could not be matched exactly to any similar pieces, this style of  buckle has been found in military contexts  in Britain and across Europe.

Two variants of this sort of openwork buckle have been found at the Roman fort at Richborough, other published examples come from Dacia (modern Romania) and  Osterburken in Germany. An illustration of a similar buckle from the Fort of the Roman military unit Cohors I Breucorum from their base at Pfunz in southern Germany is shown for comparison with the Broadstairs find at the bottom right.

The question is what was this buckle doing in Broadstairs?

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 213 Manston Beaker before Restoration

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The image for Day 213 of the VM_365 project is one of our pictures from the slide archive collection. Taken in 1987, it shows the Manston Beaker prior to its restoration.

The Beaker, previously featured on Day 161,  was found resting on its side and was lifted on site in a block of soil, tightly wrapped in bubble wrap, before being transported back to the laboratory where it was excavated from its soil block.

This picture shows the base of the beaker during cleaning. We often forget when we see an object cleaned up and on display how many stages it may have gone through to get to that condition. In the case of this Manston Beaker it involved the heavy restoration of its missing parts and decorative pattern.

VM_365 Day 212 Early Bronze Age Urn Conundrum

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The image for Day 212 of the VM_365 project shows an Early Bronze Age Urn found buried with a crouched inhumation within a ring ditch at the former Dumpton Greyhound Stadium, Ramsgate in 2000. It was excavated by Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit (KARU) and is now in the Trust’s stores.
This vessel presents a slight conundrum. Rather inconveniently our Ancestors did not always do things according to strict tradition. In this instance we do know that this ‘Urn’ is definitely of Early Bronze Age date, since it came from a crouched inhumation within a burial ring-ditch. However it rather obviously lacks any decoration and the form is not altogether informative either. Superficially, its rather basic form is quite untypical of any of the four main Early Bronze Age often richly decorated ceramic traditions – Beaker, Food Vessel, Collared Urn or Biconical Urn. However, its fabric is coarsely grog-tempered – hence its rather lumpy surface. This aspect and its buff-fired surface is much closer to some of the manufacturing trends associated with the Collared Urn tradition, current between c.2000-1600 BC so that, despite being a rather unimaginative creation, it can be confidently placed into this period at least.
This vessel joins the vessel shown on Day 200 as an example of an outlying variation in what are usually quite standard vessel forms.
The Virtual Museum would like to thank Nigel Macpherson-Grant for this information about the vessel.

VM_365 Day 211 Copper Alloy Bird Brooch from Ozengell

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Today’s VM_365 image for Day 211 is another picture taken from our slide archive collection showing a copper alloy brooch in the form of a stylised bird.

The brooch, with the bird facing to the left, was found in Grave 167 of the Ozengell Anglo Saxon cemetery near Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate which was excavated in 1980.

Brooches like this were worn by women, sometimes in pairs alligned vertically, one above the other,  to fasten the opening of a cloak.

Other items found deposited with the burial in the same grave included fragments of iron fittings from a box, eight beads, copper alloy wire and an iron buckle.

Examples of other artefacts found within the graves of the Ozengell cemetery have been featured in previous VM_365 posts, on Day 204 , Day 206 and Day 209.


VM_365 Day 210 Barbed and Tanged arrowhead from Laundry Road, Minster

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The image for Day 210 of the VM_365 project is another taken from our slide archive.

The object shown is a Late Neolithic flint tanged and barbed arrowhead, found in the fill of a segment excavated through an enclosure at Laundry Road, Minster in 1995. Another ditch section contained pottery dating to the Beaker period, suggesting that the whole enclosure was of late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date.

Other similar flint arrowheads from locations in Thanet have been featured in previous VM_365 posts, on Day 141, Day 162, and Day 168.

VM_365 Day 209 Anglo Saxon Bow Brooch

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The image for Day 209 of the VM_365 project is a Copper Alloy bow brooch from Grave 183 of the Ozengell Anglo Saxon cemetery. This image is from one of the slides contained  within our archive, other archive images from Ozengell have featured on Day 204 and Day 206.

Three other brooches, along with this one, were also found in the grave as well as a bone ring, an iron knife and two iron pins.

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 207 Decorated Middle Bronze Age globular urn sherd from Margate

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For Day 207 of the VM_365 project our image is of a large body sherd from a middle Bronze Age fineware globular urn showing the detail of the pattern of filled triangles above a series of  horizontal lines scratched into its surface. The urn was found in  the fill of a ditch at Hartsdown near Margate and was probably made between c.1550 and 1350 BC.
The ceramics of the Middle Bronze Age period are currently divided into two periods, one spanning the period  from around 1550-1350 BC and a period of transition into the Late Bronze Age from around 1350 to 1150 BC.
The pottery of the first period is epitomised by coarseware barrel or bucket jars, frequently with thick-walls, of the ‘Deverel-Rimbury’ style. There are also small tub or bowl forms and thinner walled finewares;  ‘globular urns’ and beakers and small jars that were probably drinking vessels. Sometimes much larger versions of these forms were made.  All of these were flint-tempered fabrics.
In the second transitional period there are some changes in shape, to some degree large heavy-bodied coarseware jars and tub forms continue to be made. A new form typical of the transitional period is the hooked-rim jar, frequently with perforations below the rim. Vessels with mixed tempering, with both grog and flint in the fabric, are fairly often present. Globular Urn vessel types tend to disappear, replaced by other vessels like the Birchington bowl which contained the Bronze hoard shown on Day 199 and the stamp-decorated jar shown on Day 201.