Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future

Baedeker raids on Canterbury

May 31st, 2017

Tomorrow, 1 June, is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ‘Baedeker’ raid on Canterbury – one of the raids directed at English cathedral cities described in the German travel guide. In the very early hours a large part of city around the St George’s and Burgate area went up in flames. To mark the anniversary the Centre for Kent History and Heritage is holding a one day conference on Saturday 3 June.

For almost a decade after the war, bombed areas lay in ruins. Cellars along street frontages, however, were soon emptied of rubble because of the lurking danger of unexploded bombs and some in the city saw the opportunity offered for archaeological exploration before rebuilding took place. This led to the formation of the Canterbury Excavations Committee. The story of what happened next, their pioneering work, some of the discoveries made at the time and the enormous legacy inherited by present-day archaeologists studying the city, will be told by Paul Bennett on Saturday.

For more information on the conference click here and for booking here.

Celebrating William Urry

May 22nd, 2017

map_angevin_kingsCanterbury Under the Angevin Kings
It’s fifty years since the publication of Canterbury Under the Angevin Kings, William Urry’s fascinating study of the twelfth-century city.

To celebrate this, a special event was held last Thursday afternoon (18th May) at the Cathedral Archives and Library.  Sheila Sweetinburgh has posted an account of the afternoon on her Centre of Kent History and Heritage blog. It makes interesting reading!

Bronze Age boat trips

May 9th, 2017

Dover Marina has become the home of our replica Bronze Age boat.

The boat will be on display at the marina’s Open Day on Sunday (14th) and will be paddled on short trips from the visitors’ pontoon. Come along and try it out!

Other activities will include sail tasters from the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club, free trips around the harbour, free children’s activities, face painting and giveaways.  For more details see the Port of Dover’s website.

Where? Crosswall Quay (off Snargate Street), Dover, CT17 9BN (free parking).
When? Sunday 14th May, 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.

Folkestone Museum opens

May 3rd, 2017

Folkestone Museum opensfolkestone town hallFolkestone Museum Gallery
The new Folkestone Museum opens at the end of May.

Funding from the National Lottery has helped create a brand new museum in the heart of the town in the Town Hall.

The museum will house artefacts charting the town’s past from fossils through to early settlements in the area and will include finds from archaeological digs which were in danger of being dispersed away from Folkestone.

The opening weekend over 27th and 28th May will include a host of free family friendly activities from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm on each day.

‘Explore the collections with fun interactives, see and hold real creepy crawlies, dig for fossilised remains and meet characters from Folkestone’s past.’

Folkestone Museum
The Town Hall
1-2 Guildhall Street

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


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