Illuminating the past – Enhancing the present – Inspiring the future
JUMP TO November–December 2007 | December–January 2008 | February–March 2008
April 2008 | May 2008 | June–July 2008 | August 2008 | September–October 2008 (final weeks)

September – October 2007

Three kinds of investigation are being carried out.

Metal detector survey

Under the direction of the archaeologists, members of various groups co-ordinated by Kent Archaeological Metal detector Support Unit (KAMSU) are regularly out at the site systematically recovering finds from just below the ground surface. A variety of objects have come up including fragments of a Second World War plane identified as an American bomber – either a Douglas Boston or a Havoc. Detectorists were on site the same day as the Canterbury Young Archaeologist Club (see below) and so the young archaeologists had an opportunity to try their hand at this too and see the responsible face of metal detecting as part of a planned fieldwork strategy.

To find out more about the work of KAMSU contact Maurice Worsley at: maurice.worsley1@ntlworld.com or 01303 277241.

Copper alloy Women's Land Army badge from the Second World WarSelection of coins, musket balls, buttons, buckles and fittings.Copper alloy buckle.

Field walking

Enthusiastic youngsters from the Canterbury Young Archaeologist Club spent a Saturday club morning walking over an area marked out in a grid for them in advance. Guided by their leader, Abby Guinness, two walkers in each square scoured the earth searching for objects lying on the surface – ‘surface finds’. They found lots of flint fragments which they will wash later, some fossils and one young girl found a coin – on her first YAC outing! The morning was a great success. The youngsters braved the damp windy weather and learned some field work skills for their efforts. There will be an opportunity for a return visit at a later date.

Thanet Earth: Archaeologists mark out on paper an area for the YACs to fieldwalk.Thanet Earth: The YACs at work
Thanet Earth: The area is marked out in the field, in a grid of 5 metre squares.Two walkers in each square.
Thanet Earth: YACs carefully searchingThanet Earth: Finds are brought to Abby Guinness, Canterbury YAC group leader, for recording.Thanet Earth: Learning how to use a metal detector responsibly.
Canterbury YAC, parents and archaeologists – a job well done! Flint tool for scraping or cutting. Note the 'worked' edge.

‘Strip and Map’

Each area for archaeological investigation is to be stripped of topsoil by machine and any features of interest will be recorded – mapped. The first area has revealed a number of small features and prehistoric pottery sherds probably dating to the Late Iron Age and/or Bronze Age.

Thanet Earth: machine stripping
Thanet Earth: features revealed
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November – December 2007

Thanet Earth: Hand cleaning begins.

The entire site is divided into distinct areas (‘plateaus’) which reflect the Fresca development plan. Continuous topsoil stripping of plateaus by the machines over the past weeks has revealed numerous archaeological features across the Thanet Earth site. These are being surveyed and mapped by the team and at the end of November, some excavation has now begun.

Plateau 4

Thanet at War

Some intriguing remains have recently come to light. In an open field, the team have discovered remains of a brick and stone structure with steps still leading below ground. Staff at nearby MOD Manston believe it was a 1940s airfield radio approach beacon to guide aircraft into Manston airfield.

Wing Commander David Lainchbury said that the mains electricity cables still in place and signs of a back up generator and heavy duty batteries all helped to identify the structure which is also on the right alignment for the airfield. In its day, it almost certainly had a timber roof with cladding covered with earth. It was probably deliberately demolished in the 1960s when better communications equipment was available.

Thanet Earth: the 1940s airfield radio approach beacon
Other indications of war time Thanet include debris from a Canadian Halifax bomber found during a metal detector survey. The unusual mix of British and American machine gun ammunition at the site has meant that researchers could trace the last moments of the plane’s fated flight back to Manston. Wing Commander Lainchbury spoke of how the Halifax, badly damaged by German fighter planes over Holland, diverted back to Manston but sadly failed to reach the airfield. The wrecked aircraft came down just a few miles short of its destination with the crew of six Canadians and one British airman all lost.

Prehistoric

Going back perhaps some two thousand years, the earliest evidence so far in this area dates back to prehistoric times. Several ‘enclosures’ have been identified with ditches forming the boundaries. It is likely that they had some kind of agricultural use, maybe for keeping animals.

Plateau 2

Prehistoric and Roman

A small group of cremation burials suggests there was a cemetery here in the Roman period. The date of the burials can be identified by the pottery vessel which contains the cremated remains and any other pots buried with it. The vessels have been removed and will be cleaned and processed.

Thanet Earth: Roman cremation burial with two pottery vessels in situThanet Earth: the urn packed for the trip back to HQThanet Earth: ready to be cleaned and have the fill removed

Thanet Earth project launch

Fresca Group Ltd, held a formal launch at the site in November. Marion Green, Education Officer, represented CAT and met members of the Fresca and Fitzpatrick (building contractors) teams and project partners. A huge blue ribbon around the bucket of a JCB was cut for press photos, KMFM Radio heard about the development plans and the archaeological work and guests were treated to a great buffet. The development site is so extensive that guests were then given a tour in 4×4 vehicles.

Thanet Earth: aerial photo

Involving the community

The Education Officer is visiting schools near the site with a presentation about local discoveries and kits of handling material. Visits to the Thanet Earth archaeological site are also being planned.

Thanet Earth: sunset
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December – January 2008

The workforce is expanding and the on-site team now has an international flavour with excavators from Sweden, Poland, Spain and USA as well as the local area. Topsoil stripping continues across the plateaux, more archaeological features have been identified and excavation is picking up speed.

Plateau 2

Prehistoric and Roman


Of particular note are the enclosure ditches of what are almost certainly two very big rectangular late prehistoric fields. If interpretation is correct, this is a rare example in Kent of such organised land management of the period (Late Iron Age) being seen over such an extensive area.
Two more Roman cremation burials have been recovered from Plateau 2, making four to date.

Recording a Roman cremation burial on Plateau 2Energetic digging

Plateau 4

Post-medieval

The 1940s radio approach beacon (see November-December update) has been fully surveyed and excavation continues on a huge quarry, dated by the presence of peg roof tiles and brick fragments to the eighteenth or nineteenth century.

Roman and medieval

One substantial ditched enclosure in this area, dated by its pottery, suggests land management here in the medieval period while Roman pot sherds (including imported Samian ware) and occasional features coming to light suggest even earlier activity in the Roman period.

Plateau 5

This is the highest part of the site and almost certainly archaeological features will have suffered from erosion. However in one concentrated area, small pits and ditches have been detected.

The service road area, near Plateau 6

Prehistoric

This stretches from the bottom of the Thanet Earth site virtually to the top, running for the most part parallel to Seamark Road. Near the bottom end the topsoil stripping has revealed a double ring-ditch (see So what have archaeologists found nearby? above) approximately 20 metres in diameter.

Taking the Archaeology into local schools …

CAT’s Education Officer had a great time at Monkton Primary School giving a presentation about why we are at Thanet Earth and previous discoveries in the local area. The 7 to 11 year olds were very responsive and enjoyed seeing and handling the local finds and teaching staff were enthusiastic about this curriculum support in their classrooms. A visit to Minster Primary is planned for later this month.

Monkton CE Primary school children hear about the Thanet Earth project and earlier discoveries from their local area Monkton CE Primary school children hear about the Thanet Earth project and earlier discoveries from their local area
Monkton CE Primary school children hear about the Thanet Earth project and earlier discoveries from their local area Monkton CE Primary school children hear about the Thanet Earth project and earlier discoveries from their local area Monkton CE Primary school children hear about the Thanet Earth project and earlier discoveries from their local area

… and inviting local schools to the see the Archaeology

We are planning visits to the site. Logistics are challenging … but interesting.
Fresca Group Ltd (the site developers) and Fitzpatrick (the construction company) are both very supportive of our educational programme and together we are making plans.

Media coverage

The Isle of Thanet printed a whole page article (December 14th 2007) and Meridian News filmed the team on site and back at CAT HQ, the piece being broadcast as an evening news item (January 6th 2008).

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February – March 2008

Many more archaeological features have been identified and the team of over 30 British, Swedish and Polish archaeologists is forging ahead with the excavations. The weather has been kinder of late which always helps and now, volunteers are getting involved on Saturdays (see contact details below for volunteering).

Some of the most recent discoveries are from the Second World War. A broad picture of the history of the site is now beginning to emerge and it seems that the area has a very long agricultural tradition. In the medieval period open fields were scattered with small farmsteads and hamlets with many strung along Seamark Road, obviously an ancient route. Before this, enclosures and remains of Roman structures suggest there were small Roman farmsteads with local inhabitants being buried nearby.

Earlier still, there is evidence for prehistoric activity, with some kind of Iron Age settlement just now coming to light to the north (around Plateau 8 ) and – the very earliest remains so far – Bronze Age ‘Beaker burials’, dated to around 2000 BC.

Aerial viewSkeletons of sheep, carefully laid out

Plateau 2

An unusual find was a small cluster of four animal burials (probably all sheep) . One of the graves showed that five animals had been carefully laid out. There is no dating evidence as yet, but they may be quite recent.

Prehistoric

The team found a ‘crouched burial’ with the deceased placed in the grave, knees drawn up in the foetal position. Although there were no grave goods with this particular burial, other crouched’ burials found at Thanet Earth have pottery placed with the body which dates it to the Bronze Age. So this Plateau 2 grave may also date to this time, around 2,000 BC.

This is how archaeologists work – carefully examining the remains and looking for any dateable evidence that can be associated with them. That dateable evidence may be on the same site or in another place altogether.

Roman

Thanet Earth: excavating the cremation urn
Three more Roman cremation burials have been found, making seven now in this area. One of the recent ones had a southern Spanish amphora, a type of pottery often found on Roman occupation sites. These large heavy vessels were originally imported containing olive oil and would have sat on the kitchen floor, the oil decanted when needed.They also often turn up in Romano-British graves, the neck and handles having been broken off and sometimes personal items (perhaps a coin, brooch, smaller pot) placed inside.Some interesting indications of a Roman settlement are also coming up on this plateau. The team has been excavating the remains of a large ‘sunken floored’ building cut into the chalk. The pottery sherds found around the building and comparison with similar Roman buildings found at the Monkton Mount Pleasant excavations in 1994 suggest this Thanet Earth building is also of Roman date. The construction is very unusual for the Roman period. Stepping down into the living or working area as you entered the building, was a style more commonly used in the Anglo-Saxon period.

Plateau 3

Prehistoric

Another ‘crouched burial’ has been found, this time with a ceramic pot placed by the head of the deceased. This style of burial is known as a ‘Beaker burial’ and can be dated to the Bronze Age, by the style of pottery. At the moment this is an isolated discovery on Plateau 3 with very little else in the area. See photo of a ‘Beaker burial’ from Plateau 4 below.

Plateau 4

Prehistoric

A second Bronze Age ‘Beaker burial’ has been discovered, adjacent to plateau 3. The ‘beaker’ is shaped like an upside down bell and is often highly decorated with intricate patterns etched into the surface. ‘Beaker’ burials have been rare in Kent.

Thanet Earth: A Bronze Age Beaker burial. The deceased lies in a crouched or foetal position Thanet Earth: Rectangular 'sunken floored' building, thought to be medieval.Steps down into the building can be seen to the right. Scales: 2 metre and 1 metre. Plateau 4.

Medieval

Several large agricultural enclosures are being uncovered. Deep ditches form the boundaries and inside two are rectangular ‘sunken floored’ buildings. Remains of the building in Enclosure 1 is pictured here with two steps down onto floor level (on the right). Finding the holes where posts stood shows that there was once a wooden door which opened onto the steps.

Although similar in style to Roman buildings at the Monkton Mount Pleasant site, the pot sherds found in the area suggest it is from the medieval period.

Another ‘sunken floored’ building has come up in Enclosure 3 and this one had an impressive medieval oven or hearth in one corner (seen here).

Thanet Earth: a medieval oven or hearth

Plateau 5

Prehistoric

More features are coming up here now, with a complex area of pits with Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age pottery indicating an area of settlement in prehistoric times.

Medieval

At least one more sunken floored rectangular building enclosed by ditches (Enclosure 2) is being investigated. Inside the building was a medieval style oven or hearth (similar to the one on Plateau 4).

Plateau 6

Roman

A Roman cremation burial has been found here. So far all other Roman burials have appeared on Plateau 2.

Medieval

Ditches and quarries have also been uncovered including another large ditched enclosure (probably medieval).

The service road area, near Plateau 6

Prehistoric

The double ring ditch mentioned last time has been fully exposed now and this is a remarkable find. The ditches are the remains of what was once a prehistoric burial mound or ‘barrow’.

Thanet Earth: The remains of a Bronze Age 'barrow' (a type of burial mound) show as a double ring-ditch cut into the chalk. The deceased was placed in a grave in the centre. Soil was then built up to make a mound over the whole. Thanet Earth: A Bronze Age funeral ceremony showing a burial mound in the distance. In this case, the deceased is being cremated. ©Worcestershire County Council, artist Steve Rigby.
At the centre of the Thanet Earth barrow was an extraordinary ‘Beaker burial’. An individual lay in the ‘crouched’ position with a ceramic beaker vessel (sadly crushed) at the feet, the tantalizing tip of a copper alloy object, possibly a knife blade or spear head just visible beneath the right shoulder and a flat stone wrist guard beneath the left upper arm.
Thanet Earth: close up of the Bronze Age burialThanet Earth: Working on the Bronze Age burial found at the centre of a double ring-ditch. Service Road, Plateau 6.Thanet Earth: a beautifully preserved Bronze Age beaker burial
In East Kent most barrows have unfortunately been ploughed flat through modern farming, leaving just the ditches visible and occasionally a cremation or inhumation burial.
Thanet Earth: the fine stone wrist guard from the double ring-ditchThanet Earth: the stone wrist guard from the double ring-ditchThanet Earth: the copper alloy blade from the double ring-ditchThanet Earth: the copper alloy blade and stone wrist guard servedThanet Earth: The ceramic vessel from the double ring-ditch ‘Beaker burial’. Although crushed, it is possible to see the profile with the rim at the top and base at the bottom of the image. Thanet Earth: Sherd of the intricately decorated ceramic ‘beaker’ from the double ring-ditch ‘Beaker burial’.

Plateau 8

Prehistoric

Recent topsoil stripping has uncovered a staggering number of features here – over two hundred so far. Many of these are domestic refuse pits with animal bone and identifiable pottery sherds. These, together with post holes indicating wooden structures, suggest that this is going to be an interesting area of Iron Age settlement.
More next time…

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April 2008

Firstly – apologies for the late arrival of this update. The Diary writer has been very busy involving the local community with the Thanet Earth project. You can see the Monkton primary school visit here and the May update will cover the great response to our public talk and Open Days.
Meanwhile, the team of over 40 archaeologists have also been very busy. April brought some decent weather and the team has made great progress. Volunteers continue to help on site.

Plateau 1

Medieval

Another focus of medieval settlement is appearing here, with at least three sunken-floored buildings to date.

Plateau 2

Prehistoric

A Bronze Age copper axe head (‘palstave’) has been found lying on a layer of flint cobbles at the base of an ancient pond. It is likely that the flints were deliberately laid to make a solid surface and at some point the object was thrown into the pond. The mix of rounded and angular flints cobbles are identical to what is found in the natural clays of the immediate vicinity, suggesting they were gathered locally. It is unusual to discover such an object in situ. The same kind of tool may have been used in the building of the Dover Bronze Age Boat although this Thanet Earth example is thought to have been a votive offering.

Thanet Earth: The axe head being excavated. Thanet Earth: The axe head.
Scant remains of a cremation (no urn) set in the centre of a ring-ditch have also been recorded on this plateau.

Medieval

Alongside Plateau 1, a complex of at least seven sunken-floored buildings has now been uncovered on Plateau 2. Some have beaten chalk floors and hearths or other areas of burning suggesting they were used for some kind of agricultural processing rather than for living in.

Plateau 3

Prehistoric and Roman

Relatively few archaeological features are appearing here but there is some evidence for Roman activity and the few post-holes and pits may relate to the Iron Age settlement on nearby Plateau 8. One small pit had pottery sherds and worked flints including part of a polished axe.

Plateau 4

Medieval

A deep chalk quarry has been excavated in Enclosure 3 where a medieval sunken-floored building with impressive oven was found earlier. Two more of these structures have now been recorded and they are becoming quite a common feature of the medieval landscape at Thanet Earth (about 30 across the site so far). All archaeological work is now complete on Plateau 4.

Plateau 5

Medieval

Archaeologists in this area are finding that medieval Enclosure 2 has at least four phases of use. A beautiful medieval ceramic jug found in this area is a rare find, being almost complete.

Thanet Earth: An unusually near complete medieval jug from the excavations.

The service road area, near Plateau 6

Prehistoric

The extraordinary Bronze Age barrow has now been fully excavated (with the help of volunteers) and recorded.
Specialist analysis of the human bone
Skeletal material from the central grave is undergoing isotope analysis as part of a wider five year specialist study at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. Isotope analysis examines the nitrogen and carbon compositions within a bone sample to reconstruct possible diet while oxygen isotopes can provide data used to determine geographic location and origin.

Plateau 6

Medieval

A medieval seal was found by a member of the Kent Archaeological Metal detector Support Unit working in conjunction with the archaeologists. It is in excellent condition and probably of thirteenth-century date.

Thanet Earth: Medieval seal. Try reading the reversed image.

The service road area, near Plateau 7

Prehistoric?

Work here has uncovered an ancient ‘hollow way’ (a track running below the level of the surrounding land). It is almost certainly an earlier version of Seamark Road. This track and post-holes suggesting wooden structures may all relate to an Iron Age site lying beneath Plateau 7.

Plateau 8

Prehistoric

After the ‘strip and map’ exercise it was clear this was going to be a productive plateau and the archaeologists have not been disappointed. The evidence is of intensive occupation at an Iron Age settlement with storage and rubbish pits, pottery, burnt flint and animal bone (sheep, cattle and pig) and other remains suggesting timber structures. Pottery analysis by specialist Peter Couldrey suggests occupation in the early Iron Age, c. 600-300 BC.

Thanet Earth: Clay weaving loom weights from one of the larger prehistoric pits.Thanet Earth: An unusual find — a potin coin, c. 100 BC. Thanet Earth: Interesting evidence about diet, farming and the local environment can be found in soil samples. These remains are from the Iron Age pit where the loom weights were found.

Local school visits Thanet Earth

School children dodged April showers to see the discoveries being made at Thanet Earth when Canterbury Archaeological Trust and construction company, Fitzpatrick Contractors Ltd, planned an on-site day for Monkton CE Primary School who had been quick to accept the offer of a visit.
They saw a display of finds and after a site safety talk, were shown how tonnes of soil are sieved looking for tiny shells, seeds and other evidence for the Thanet’s ancient environment. This was quite an attraction as a lot of sloppy ‘mud’ is processed using a machine which creates the effect of a chocolate fountain.
Children then had the chance to go onto the site wearing new Hi Viz jackets given by Fitzpatrick to see the archaeologists excavating remains of the Iron Age settlement on Plateau 8. Head teacher, Janet Graham said, “All the children had an excellent day and were so excited by what they saw… Class 4 have been writing accounts and reports on the visit.” As a result of the experience, classroom teaching this term has included local life in the Bronze Age.

Thanet Earth: Using a flotation tank (the 'chocolate fountain') to process soil samples. Over 8 tonnes of soil has been processed so far from the Thanet Earth excavations.
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May 2008

A recent aerial view showing development of the Thanet Earth excavations.

Thanet Earth: Aerial view of Thanet Earth excavations looking towards Reculver with A28 at bottom of image. The first greenhouses are under construction.
Throughout May the excavation team of over 40 have continued their investigations of this extensive site.

Plateau 1

Prehistoric

Two human skeletons (probably prehistoric) have been recorded, lying in a ditch. One is very fragmentary, the other near complete and in a crouched (perhaps trussed) position.

Medieval

The medieval buildings on Thanet Earth are proving to be very interesting and work continues on the three sunken-floored buildings on Plateau 1. One is a modest structure. Another has two compartments separated by a wall made of ‘clunch’ (a chalk based building material) and the third is very unusual with a circular domed alcove in one corner (possibly a larder) and in another corner, a roughly rectangular ?storage area? again built of clunch with an opening for access.

Thanet Earth: Medieval structure with dividing 'clunch' wall. Plateau 1.Thanet Earth: The archaeologist is standing in the ?storage area? of this rectangular medieval building. Note the opening to the left of his shovel.

Plateau 2

Work on the group of medieval structures has been completed and it is clear that there is even more complex archaeology nearby. The evidence for structures, pits and wells is more indicative of an urban excavation while several underground chambers or caves are especially intriguing.
This is proving to be the most complex part of the Thanet Earth site so far.

Thanet Earth: An archaeologist records a circular 'clunch' structure on Plateau 2.Thanet Earth: View of underground chambers from above.
Thanet Earth: View of chambers from inside.

Plateau 3

Prehistoric

A small ring-ditch with a central inhumation has been found here. Another, crouched, burial lay nearby accompanied by a crushed ceramic beaker.

Plateau 5

Medieval

At least three more sunken-floored buildings have come to light here.

Plateau 6

Another intriguing underground chamber or cave has been discovered, this one with an arched entrance and roughly cut steps leading down. Lots of oyster shells and medieval pottery sherds lay around the area.

Medieval

Nearby and lying parallel to Seamark Road, another rectangular structure has been uncovered. Along one length is a doorway with a worn step or ramp formed in the chalk allowing access to the sunken floor. At least 30 medieval structures have been identified to date, over the entire site.

Plateau 8

Prehistoric

Thanet Earth: A dog burial. Thanet Earth: A well preserved human burial found in a pit.
Almost 200 features (most pits and post holes) have been excavated so far on this Iron Age settlement. This plateau has been the most productive for pottery and Peter Couldrey, prehistoric ceramics specialist is making an initial assessment of the material as it comes up. In one pit lay a dog burial, in another a human burial. Other features include an oval ring-ditch and smaller ring-ditch. The main area of activity is partially enclosed by ditches where three human inhumations have so far been uncovered. Plateau 8 has also been the most productive of environmental information. In soil samples taken from key features, charred plant remains (mostly cereals) and pulses (especially peas) are being identified. Cereal chaff and weeds indicate crop processing. Chaff is very useful as it is often easier to identify the cereal variety from this waste material than from the grain.

Anglo-Saxon

Possibly the only Anglo-Saxon find to date is a beautiful silver sceatta found by metal detector on Plateau 8.

Thanet Earth: The Anglo-Saxon sceatta from Plateau 8.

Friends of CAT visit Thanet Earth

Almost 50 Friends were treated to a display of finds and photographs, seeing how the environmental team copes with processing tonnes of soil and a chance to see current work on Plateau 8, the site of an Iron Age settlement.

Public talk in Birchington: The story so far

Over 70 people came to the Birchington Centre to hear Paul Bennett, CAT Director give an illustrated talk on discoveries to date. The event was in collaboration with the Isle of Thanet Archaeological Society and the vast majority of the audience were local people. It was a successful and enjoyable evening and thanks to David White, Chairman of the Society, for arranging the venue which was very sociable, with a bar! The audience went away with the Thanet Earth leaflet and an invitation to come along to an Open Day.

Public Open Days

Two Thanet Earth Open Days were planned for people to come and see archaeology in action. Most of the visitors were from the local area and they came out on the rainy Saturday as well as the sunny one. We were really pleased with the response and people were very appreciative of the opportunity to see this live project and hear about discoveries ‘on their doorstep’.

Thanet Earth: Seeing how soil samples are sieved to recover plant and animal remains and tiny artefacts.Thanet Earth: Site supervisor, Andy Macintosh, takes a group onto site where archaeologists are working.
Thanet Earth: Visitors see evidence for an Iron Age structure on Plateau 8.Thanet Earth: A drizzley walk back from Plateau 8!
In the Display cabin, visitors saw a selection of finds, photographs and a digital loop presentation of the major discoveries to date, many of which were features no longer visible on the site. They also got to play with our wonderful new toy, the DinoLite, bought by the Friends of Canterbury Archaeological Trust. This is a small handheld digital microscope which plugs into the USB port on a computer. It can be used to view small objects at various magnifications on a computer screen, take still photographs and video and will be very useful for specialist examination of finds and at educational events. It went down a storm. Under the DinoLite was an environmental sample fresh from Plateau 8, site of an Iron Age settlement. Supported in a small stand, visitors could move the sample around beneath it while looking at the computer screen. An annotated picture of the sample helped to identify what they were seeing – ancient snails, cereals and peas. It was fascinating and compelling viewing. Several people asked where they could buy this clever little bit of kit as they could see other applications for it.
Display cabin with finds table, photos and plasma screen presentation.Some of the finds from Thanet Earth on display.
The plasma screen showed discoveries on the site which are no longer visible.Viewing the finds.
Using our new DinoLite to magnify tiny animal and plant remains and see them on a computer screen.Visitors pack into the display cabin.
They then went on to see how tonnes of environmental soil samples are being processed and had a tour of Plateau 8 where archaeologists were at work. For the children, there were two competitions and the winners will be coming to the Trust offices in July to see what other jobs archaeologists do. We had some great feedback and I would like to thank Fitzpatrick Contractors Ltd for their support with the public events, the stewards – the two Andrews, Beverley, Elizabeth, Gillian, Hanna, Kit and Kirsty for their cheerful and able assistance and Thanet Earth supervisor Andy Macintosh for leading the Plateau 8 tours with his first hand experience of work in the field.Through the talk and site visits, over 500 people have seen and heard about the Thanet Earth archaeology project. Here are some of their comments:
People were invited to write comments before they left. People were invited to write comments before they left.
‘Great visit, very interesting’
‘Excellent tour thanks Andy’
‘Great tour. Privilege to see the archaeology in situ. Thanks’
‘Cool! Fabulous finds’
‘Great raw work’
‘A rare treat’
‘Nice jug!’
‘Nice loom weights!’
‘I like the oysters’
‘Very good talk at Birchington and excellent site tour today – not quite as early Iron Age as DAG site at Mill Hill. Very interesting display of finds up here as well. Clearly labelled. Thanks’
‘Like the way photos match display’
‘I really like the DinoLite!’
‘Absolutely fascinating. We learnt so much’
‘Excellent photos!’Archaeological Excavations at Thanet Earth,
near Monkton, Isle of Thanet [PDF]

An information leaflet summarising the story so far was produced to synchronise with public events.
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June – July 2008
(origins of ‘Seamark Road’ discovered)

It’s summer time at Thanet Earth and there have been hot, dusty days of late. The site continues to attract media interest as the team makes yet more discoveries.

Plateau 1

Prehistoric

A pit containing lots of Neolithic pottery sherds is now one of the earliest features at Thanet Earth while another Beaker burial with crouched inhumation and two ceramic beakers adds to the growing number of Bronze Age finds.

Beaker burial.

Roman

Evidence for Roman settlement has been relatively sparse but recently some well furnished cremation burials have been found. One had at least 10 pots and 2 beautiful ‘thistle’ brooches dated to c. AD 30–65.

Cremation burial.Thistle brooch.

Medieval

Enclosure ditches and eight more sunken-floored buildings have been uncovered, strung along a medieval drove road. One of the buildings had two medieval pottery jars in situ sunken into the floor (for water storage?).
Work on Plateau 1 is now finished.

Plateau 2

Medieval

The intriguing underground ‘caves’ on this plateau have become ever more extensive. Some are over 3 metres below present ground level and the tops have been machined off in stages to make them safe to work on. Three wells found in this area have been tested with boreholes and samples taken from the lowest levels, around 27 metres down. Some organic material was identified from one of the wells.
Work on Plateau 2 is now finished. This has been a productive and complex area to excavate.

Plateau 3

Medieval

Another sunken-floored building here with a large circular oven and smaller oven nearby.

Plateau 6

Prehistoric

A ring-ditch 15 metres diameter indicated the presence of another ‘barrow’ or burial mound. At its centre lay the well preserved skeleton of a crouched inhumation but no grave goods.

Post-medieval

Plateau 6 is bordered by Seamark Road and we’ve found the evidence for its name. The team has found the circular brick foundation of a ‘sea mark’, a navigation device to detect distance and position. Built probably in the 18th century it would have originally had a timber superstructure and been clearly visible from out at sea.

Plateau 7

Little work has been done here so far but remains nearby had suggested an area of prehistoric activity.

Prehistoric

A 20 metre diameter ring-ditch indicating a ‘barrow’ or burial mound had a near-central burial but only scraps of bone remained. However there were 3 ‘satellite’ cremations, one cutting through the ring-ditch itself.

Plateau 8

Most of the team has been concentrated on this plateau in recent months and as early indications suggested, it continues to be a very productive area of Thanet Earth.

Prehistoric

Neolithic
More neolithic evidence is now coming up (identified by type of pot sherds) and the team think they have found a ‘fire pit’ (used for cooking?) with flint blade and pottery fragments in the fill.

Sherds of an early Neolithic bowl c. 4000 – 3350 BC.
Bronze Age A 20 metre diameter ring-ditch indicating a probable Bronze Age barrow is being excavated, adding to the growing number of these structures being uncovered at Thanet Earth. Thanet is thought to have probably the highest concentration of prehistoric burial mounds in the country outside Wessex.Iron Age
The Iron Age settlement continues to be very productive. Several more human inhumation burials have been found (12 in all to date). Five have now come from the ditches which enclose the main area of Iron Age activity and may have been placed there to protect the settlement, in a symbolic sense.
Two are in pits. One of these had a Late Iron Age copper alloy brooch while the individual in the second pit had been buried ‘prone’, that is face down. There has also been a second pit burial with a dog. It is thought that there may also be some ritual significance to the pit burials where the deceased may have been offerings.
An Iron Age pit inhumation burial with brooch (inset). Scale 20cms.A Late Iron Age or early Roman cremation burial. Scale 20 cms.
A Late Iron Age cremation had 3 pots, one of which had been repaired in its lifetime with pitch along a crack around the body.
One pot had been repaired with pitch, along a crack around the body.
There has been abundant pottery from Plateau 8. Some is no doubt domestic refuse but the complete vessels may have been ritually placed. Other finds include a second ‘potin’ coin dated to c. 100 BC. Some 300 pits and post holes have now been found on the Iron Age settlement. Many of the pits were probably silos storing grain over the winter for spring sowing. Analysis of soil samples from this plateau shows that cereals (and pulses) were being cultivated.

Anglo-Saxon

An exciting glimpse of Anglo-Saxon occupation at Thanet Earth came up with the silver ‘sceatta’ found earlier on this plateau (see May above). Now structures are being uncovered on Plateau 8. One sunken-floored building had an unusual arrangement of post holes (where originally upright wooden posts were inserted to construct the frame of the building) and domestic finds including 5th – 6th century pottery, a Roman coin, a knife and bone pin. A smaller second building was also found, near the remains of a prehistoric barrow or burial mound (see above, this update).

Finds from the Anglo-Saxon building: early Anglo-Saxon pottery, Roman coin, glass, bone pin, animal tooth.Anglo-Saxon sunken-floored building.
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August 2008 (unusual burials come to light)

Plateau 1

Prehistoric

Excavation of three more ‘Beaker burials’ and another crouched inhumation (without a vessel) brings work on this plateau to a close.

Plateau 5

Medieval

Some of the team have returned to working on Plateau 5 now, on a series of medieval enclosures and buildings. To date, over 50 medieval buildings have been located across Thanet Earth. The skeleton of a horse found down a garderobe (toilet) was an unusual discovery. The garderobe was associated with buildings along the Seamark Road.

Thanet Earth: A complete horse skeleton was found at the bottom of a medieval garderobe (toilet) near Seamark Road.

Plateau 6

Prehistoric

Neolithic
More pits are being found containing pottery sherds and worked flints.
Bronze Age
Work finished on the ring ditch discovered last month. At its centre was a well preserved inhumation burial.

Medieval

An enclosure with building and an oven adds to the growing number of agricultural structures across Thanet Earth.

Post-medieval

The team finished excavation of the ‘seamark’. It is believed to be the first one ever excavated and the remains may be kept in situ on the Fresca site. Beneath it, evidence of an earlier seamark was also found with a coin of King James l (1566–1625) in the soil fill.

Thanet Earth: Coin of King James l (1566–1625).

Plateau 7

As other plateaux finish or near completion, the work force returns to the southern end of Thanet Earth where signs of prehistoric activity had been picked up earlier.

Prehistoric

Bronze Age
A 30 metre diameter ring-ditch with one, possibly two burials at its centre has been unearthed. The circular ditch is 2.5 metres across and 2 metres deep. This is the largest ring-ditch so far from the site but only half lies within the excavation area.

Plateau 8

Over 1,000 features have been excavated on this part of the site so far and some unusual discoveries are being made.

Roman

Two more cremation burials have been detected quite close to the Bronze Age barrow found last month.

Roman cremation burial.A young woman who had evidently died in childbirth. Thanet Earth: A young woman who had evidently died in childbirth (skeletal remains of the baby lay in the pelvic area).
Another burial, this time an inhumation of a very young woman was a particularly poignant discovery. It seems she died in childbirth as the skeletal remains of her baby lay in the pelvic area. In her right hand was a smoothed flint, perhaps a comforter during her labour. The bones will receive scientific analysis (carbon dating) to confirm the dating as there was little associated evidence. At the east end of Plateau 8 (and some distance from the area of Iron Age settlement) is a small formal inhumation cemetery. There are few grave goods and at this time it is thought that the cemetery dates to the Late Iron Age or early Roman period.
Thanet Earth: Excavating the Late Iron Age or early Roman cemetery.

Anglo-Saxon

There is a concentration of Anglo-Saxon activity on this plateau and now a rare evocative double burial can be added to the growing evidence. Two individuals lay together, one with an arm across the other. Both are exceptionally tall, over six foot. The one to the right is male, the one to the left is less certain but thought at this time to also be male. They may have been buried as ‘brothers in arms’. Specialist examination of the bones should confirm gender. There were no grave goods.

Thanet Earth: An unusual Anglo-Saxon double burial. They may have been 'brothers in arms'.
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September – October 2008. The final weeks.

It’s autumn and we’ve come full circle at Thanet Earth. This time last year the field work had begun and nobody at that stage could have foreseen just how rich a site this was going to be. Here is a summary of the final weeks on site.

Work was finished on the Plateau 5 medieval buildings and on Plateau 6, another medieval sunken building interestingly had half of a stone mortar buried into one edge. Altogether, over 60 of these medieval ‘sunken’ buildings were found across the Thanet Earth site.
By the end of September, excavation of the Plateau 8 Iron Age settlement was finished. Four more burials were found in the inhumation cemetery bringing the total excavated to 29. Plateau 8 was an extremely productive area and was the focus of attention during the site Open Days.

Final activity was concentrated on Plateau 7 at the extreme southern end. The impressive 30 metre diameter Bronze Age barrow discovered earlier had two central burials with two others within the circular ditch, although there were no grave goods. A second barrow (20 metres diameter) had a central grave but no surviving skeletal remains.

Thanet Earth: The final days on Plateau 7.
Thanet Earth: The two impressive Bronze Age 'barrows' on Plateau 7 after excavation.
The team has now left Thanet Earth. Some of the archaeologists have joined other excavation projects, while at CAT HQ, the senior Thanet Earth field personnel embark on a post-excavation programme of rationalising and interpreting the immense mass of multi-period data gathered over the past year. Alongside this, finds staff and external specialists continue to identify and catalogue the wealth of finds.
VIDEOS: Topsoil stripping | Excavating a medieval oven

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