Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

Silver penny returns from the cleaners

April 5th, 2017

An Anglo-Saxon silver penny, recovered during the excavations on the St James’s development in Dover last summer, has now been carefully cleaned allowing it to be dated to around AD 800.

The coin was found at a depth of about 9 feet when a trench for a replacement sewer was being excavated across the site of the former East Kent bus garage, off St James’s Street. The find is one the oldest and most interesting to be made during the St James’s project. Although identifiable as a ‘penny’, in its time the coin would have had the purchasing power of a present-day £10 or £20 note, suggesting that the Anglo-Saxon person who lost it would not have been very happy.

The coin, itself, was issued by Coenwulf, King of Mercia (now the English Midlands), who reigned from 796 until his death in AD 821. Some background research takes us into the complex, shadowy world of Anglo-Saxon power politics in which Kent features quite significantly. Once an important independent kingdom, by the eighth century Kent had lost its much of its former status. In 764 the powerful King Offa of Mercia gained supremacy over the county, ruling it through local client kings. The death of Offa in 796 signaled the time for a major Kentish rebellion. Although this was initially successful, in 798 Offa’s successor, King Coenwulf, invaded Kent with a great army. He deposed and captured the rebel leader and made his own brother, Cuthred, king of Kent. After Cuthred’s death in 807, Coenwulf ruled Kent directly from his capital at Tamworth in modern Staffordshire.

Throughout these troubled times Dover appears to have remained a busy settlement and port. Very few Anglo-Saxon coins have ever been previously recovered from the town, despite the fact that Dover had its own mint from about 928 until 1158.
Anglo-Saxon coin of CoenwulfAnglo-Saxon coin of Coenwulf reverse

Mystery solved!

March 21st, 2017

Way back in another time and another website we posted this ‘Mystery Find No 2’. At that time several suggestions were made for the function of these objects, some of which it turns out were not too far from the truth!

Yesterday we received this message from John Cotter of Oxford Archaeology.

‘Remember those weird pipeclay objects – ‘cages’ or hollow polyhedrons that you posted online on the CAT website about 10 years ago? They are almost certainly fireclay ‘radiants’ from very early gas fires of c 1900 – rather like those fake coal fires from the 1960s–70s. They retained and radiated heat – like hot coals. I was in the Science Museum in Kensington over Xmas and spotted them in two early gas fires in a room devoted to the history of domestic appliances. Mystery solved it seems! :0)’
Mystery objectMystery objectMystery object

Hazel wins the great archaeological bake-off!

March 8th, 2017

Congratulations to Hazel Mosley, one of our excavation team, for winning the Current Archaeology bake-off!
The winning entryThe winning entryTasted as good as it looked

IOTAS Archaeological Studies Lecture Course 2017

March 1st, 2017

The Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society has sent us details of their lecture course, this year given by John Grigsby. John is currently writing his PhD on Stonehenge; his day job is with our excavation team.

Transitions in History, Archaeology and Myth:
how did traditions change or survive?

Session Date
1. The chosen few: Medway Megaliths – were Neolithic tombs burial places of elites, war-dead or sacrifices? Looking at evidence for a clash of faiths in Neolithic Britain. 13 March
2. Broken circles: The End of the Bronze Age in Thanet and Kent – rituals and sites, and the coming of Iron. Might climate change have brought about the collapse of Bronze Age society? 10 April
3. Pontifex Maximus: Julius Caesar in Kent – the impact of the Romans on British language, culture and religion. How much did the Roman occupation really change the native Britons? 8 May
4. Gods, heroes or mercenaries?: Hengist and Horsa – Anglo-Saxon paganism and the coming of the English. Are the first English heroes mythical or rooted in reality as Tolkien believed? 12 June
5. Domneva’s Deer: Saints and heroes – possible Pagan survivals in local hagiography. We look at the miracle tales of the early Christian saints – did they incorporate aspects of an older faith? 10 July
6. Dissolution: The history of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury - the rise and fall of Monasticism in Kent from Augustine to Henry VIII. 11 Sept
7. The Six Witches of Maidstone – the witch-trials of the 1600′s – origins, theories and facts. We look at documentary evidence of the trials and the social phenomena behind the persecutions. 9 Oct
8. The Hooden Horse: folk tradition or pagan survival? Analysis of a Kentish Christmas custom - do the roots of such traditions countrywide predate Christianity? 13 Nov

ADVANCE BOOKING ESSENTIAL – Fee for all eight lectures £80: individual lectures £12, including refreshments and course materials. Under 18s (minimum age 16): all eight lectures £65, individual lectures £10 each. Course sessions are held in the hall at Crampton. Each session runs from 7.00-9.00 pm.

Limited places – book early!

For course details and enrolment: , message us on our Facebook page (Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society), or write to IOTAS at:
Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society
Room B, Crampton Tower Yard
High Street, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 2AB


Canterbury Christ Church University

February 20th, 2017

Uncovering the precinct wall Possible buttress Excavation underway
We have just begun a new investigation within the North Holmes Campus of Canterbury Christ Church University.

Initial evaluation was conducted last summer and the footings of the medieval abbey precinct wall were located. The present evaluation is intended to find out more about the site, based on the results of the earlier phase of work and other sites in the near vicinity. It is probable that further medieval activity, Anglo-Saxon craftworking remains and Bronze Age features will be identified.

The work is being funded by Canterbury Christ Church University ahead of the construction of the new Arts Building that is proposed for the site.

We will post more soon.

Last chance!

February 16th, 2017

Gravestone Sandwich news 02 DSCN0978 Sandwich news medieval tile
The month has gone all too quickly and this weekend will be the last for the community dig at St Peter’s Church in Sandwich.

We are holding an Open Day on Sunday (19th), so do come along and see what has been uncovered, talk to the archaeologists and members of the team and maybe get involved in some of the activities in the church.

New community project at Sandwich

January 24th, 2017

St Peter's Church, Sandwich
A community excavation began at St Peter’s Church in Sandwich on Sunday.

The project will uncover what remains the south aisle, which was demolished when the tower of the church fell in 1661. Read more about the project and its progress here.

Work continues each weekend until mid February.

A double act evening

January 23rd, 2017

Last Thursday was a busy evening for those keen to attend archaeology lectures in Canterbury.  Read all about it on CCCU’s Centre for Kent History and Heritage blog.

The next Friends’ lecture is on Saturday 25th February. Starting at 6 pm in Og46 Old Sessions House, this is traditionally something of an annual marathon. Trust Director, Paul Bennett will attempt to beat the clock and deliver an amply illustrated account of all the Trust’s various activities over the past year – before the caretaker arrives jingling his keys!

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