A huge excavation is presently underway on the University of Kent campus. The work, being funded by the University, has exposed a remarkable array of mainly Iron Age features. The excavation is being undertaken in advance of the construction of Turing College on the western edge of the university campus, close to Keynes College. The site, covering some 4.2 hectares of steeply sloping ground with panoramic views across Canterbury, is still being stripped of topsoil at the moment, but already we can see that we are dealing with an exceptionally interesting and important site, perhaps a settlement pre-dating Iron Age Canterbury.
Using newly-acquired satellite surveying equipment, Crispin Jarman is producing a mapping plan that is growing on a daily basis as new ground is cleared. A field team at least thirty-five strong is hard at work sampling the vast array of features that have been laid bare. Working to a strict timetable, we have to date completed a large area north of Beverley Farm, revealing metalled trackways, ditches, pits, post-holes for fence lines and buildings, hearths, fire-pits and a rare Iron Age well containing the remains of a notched timber ladder and part of a possible wooden shovel. The subsoil is ghastly: a horrible glutinous clay when wet, turning to fissured concrete when dry. But the team, comprising our own full-time staff supplemented by new archaeologists from home and abroad including students from the University of Kent, is stepping up and is managing the task admirably. We are committed to a tight schedule for this work.
The upper levels of the site are filled with features representing entire field systems, settlement compounds and animal pens. There is even a compound defining a small cemetery containing cremation burials, some in pottery vessels but others perhaps originally interred in wooden, textile or leather containers that have not survived. A bewildering profusion of post-holes can on examination be seen to represent square, rectangular and subcircular buildings. Some of these associated with hearths. Other hearths sit in seeming isolation, with no features around them, suggesting perhaps a building with no earthfast posts. There are many four-post granary-type buildings and others of domestic type. Others defy interpretation at the moment. Features are generally rich in prehistoric pottery, although finds of other kinds are relatively rare. At a glance the pottery dates from the early to late Iron Age, say from 700 to 50 BC.
UPDATE | Open Day: 25th July