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Lower Palaeolithic 700000 - 200000 BC
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Gazetteer of Lower Palaeolithic sites on Thanet

The handaxes:

Stone House Broadstairs
Lord of the Manor
St. Mildred's Bay
Asda Westwood
Thanet Reach Westwood

Gazetteer of Lower Palaeolithic sites on Thanet

Four Thanet handaxes
Thanet handaxes - a closer look

Artefact scales in centimetre divisions

Evidence from this period is represented by finds of flint tools, all of which are handaxes. Only one has certainly been recovered from an ancient 'horizon' (a clay deposit at Thanet Reach), though there is the possibility of a second example (from a clay deposit at Stone House). The rest have either been found 'unstratified' (ie. cannot be related to a particular find-spot or deposit context) or were redeposited in contexts from much later periods.

Eight flint handaxes are known to have been found on Thanet. As yet no flakes or flake-tools of this period have definitely been recovered or recognised.

Efforts will be made to obtain pictures and any other information on Thanet pieces not held by the Trust.

The handaxes

Lower Palaeolithic handaxes have been recovered from several locations across Thanet:

(I) Ramsgate.
Two handaxes have been found in Ramsgate. The contexts of their discoveries are unknown.

(i) One small (possibly ovate or cordate) handaxe was until recently on view in a Victorian 'Cabinet of Curiosities' displayed at Canterbury's main library. It may have been discovered in the early 20th Century.

NGR 637467 165328 (Ramsgate).

(ii) Another handaxe apparently resides in a museum in Bexley. The existence of this piece was originally uncovered through work by Rita Mortenson, but the information has only recently been rediscovered. Investigation underway!

NGR 637467 165328 (Ramsgate).

(II) Stone House, Broadstairs 1953.
In 1953 an Acheulian handaxe was discovered in a clay deposit on this site. The deposit was 13m wide and passed diagonally across the playing fields at the west of the (now former) school. The handaxe was discovered at 0.85m below the groundsurface, 0.35m deep within the clay.

On the surface of the clay a Prehistoric flint 'floor' was also discovered. This context produced Neolithic scrapers (but they may have been residual in a much later context).

NGR 639569 169066 (approximate).

TSMR 872.

Biggs 1972;
Minter and Herbert 1973.

(III) Lord of the Manor.
A handaxe from this area appears in a collection displayed at the Tudor House in Margate. Context unknown.

NGR 635546 165406 (area).

Ovate handaxe from St. Mildred's Bay

(IV) St. Mildred's Bay, Westgate 1996-99.
An Ovate Acheulian handaxe was discovered on the western side of St.Mildred's Bay in the late 1990's. This now inundated site was once a shallow valley which existed some distance from the ancient coastline. A stream once flowed through this valley. The remains of the stream bed can still be seen today (sands permitting).

NGR 632529 170512 (approximate).

Twisted Ovate handaxe from Asda Superstore Westwood

(V) Asda Superstore, Westwood 1999.
Excavation led by David Perkins, Trust for Thanet Archaeology; (ASW99).

A Twisted Ovate Acheulian handaxe was found amongst a Late Prehistoric 'floor' of laid flints discovered during archaeological excavations at this site.

NGR 637702 168007 (approximate).

Small Pointed handaxe from Thanet Reach

Pointed handaxe from Thanet Reach

(VI) Thanet Reach, Westwood 1996-2000.
Two Acheulian handaxes have been found at the Thanet Reach Business Park site at Westwood.

(i) One was recovered from a spoil heap in the late 1990's. This was a small Pointed handaxe. It had been rediscovered and reworked in a much later Prehistoric period.

NGR 637243 167789 (approximate).

(ii) The other was discovered during a Watching Brief conducted by Emma Boast, Trust for Thanet Archaeology (2000).

This other handaxe was the most recent to be discovered and is also the most important. It is the only example to be certainly recovered from relatively in-situ (ie. undisturbed) deposits. The handaxe came from a thick clay deposit and was spotted in the bucket of a mechanical excavator by its sharp-eyed driver. Much thanks are owed to him.

NGR 637189 167621 (approximate).

Thanet handaxes - a closer look

Click here if you would like a closer look and a little more information on some of the handaxes featured above.


TSMR - Thanet Sites and Monuments Record.


Minter K.S. and Herbert E.F. 1973. Archaeological discoveries in Broadstairs and St. Peter’s up to 1972Broadstairs and St. Peter’s Archaeological Society.

Biggs H. 1972.  Kent Archaeological Review 1972, p.273.

The text is the responsibility of the author; the photographs are by the author unless otherwise stated.

Paul Hart

Version 1 - Posted 30.03.05
Version 2 - Posted 10.04.06
Version 3 - Posted 14.05.06
Version 4 - Posted 25.07.06
Version 5 - Posted 21.10.06
Version 6 - Posted 16.12.06

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