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Meopham School, Kent

Client: Kier Construction Limited

A six-week long excavation at Meopham School during August and September 2016 revealed that the site had been the focus for settlement activity for over 6,000 years. The school is situated on a ridgeway just west of the A227, which itself follows an earlier Roman road, and lies in an area of known archaeological importance.

 

A large pit containing many worked flints, including thumb scrapers and blades dating to the Neolithic period, was the earliest feature on the site. Most of the activity, however, was associated with a mid to late Iron Age defended settlement located strategically on the ridge line, perhaps along a route-way which predated the Roman road. It was represented by a large curving outer ditch, broken by an entranceway containing five associated post-holes which might have formed a large posted entrance structure. Within what would have been the internal area of the enclosure were pits and post-holes indicative of timber structures. Excavation of the features recovered abundant pottery sherds, predominantly shell-tempered, together with assemblages of burnt flint and charcoal. 

Excavations at Meopham School, Kent
Excavations at Meopham School, Kent
Excavations at Meopham School, Kent

At some point during the occupation of the settlement, the enclosure ditch became neglected and possibly redundant. It was infilled by natural erosion material mixed with occasional occupational refuse. Then, during the late Iron Age (c 100 BC), the line of the enclosure was recut by a narrower and intermittent ditch line, reinstating the boundary of the settlement.

 

At the start of the Roman period, the settlement was abandoned, although an inhumation burial containing the remains of a child no more than 4 years of age was cut into the upper fill of the ditch line. In addition, a large pit, 15m diameter and 1.5–2m deep, was dug which directly blocked the south-western entrance to the settlement. It was encompassed on three sides by a narrow ring-ditch. The pit was probably a sand quarry and was backfilled with silty clay amongst which was Roman tile and a copper alloy brooch. 

Excavations at Meopham School, Kent
Excavations at Meopham School, Kent
Excavations at Meopham School, Kent

The identification of a large defended settlement indicates the importance of this ridgeway during the later prehistoric period, perhaps as a crucial communication highway between north and south Kent. In addition, the apparent abandonment of the settlement around the start of the Roman period adds to evidence for a wider trend of socio-economic control that came with the new regime.