Virtual Museum Logo
Neolithic 4200 - 2000 BC

Return to Neolithic Burials Display

Display Contents
Neolithic Burials:

Thanet flat-grave/pit burials

Ursuline Convent
Mill Lane Margate
Monkton-Minster A253
Chilton Farm
Chalk Hill


Neolithic Burials:

Thanet flat-grave/pit burials

The burial of Neolithic individuals are traditionally thought to be unusual in a time where communal monuments containing the disarticulated remains of many people dominate the archaeological record.

However in Neolithic Thanet the only excavated evidence we have of our ancestor's burial-rites comprise
flat-graves  containing a single, complete inhumation which is sometimes accompanied by other disarticulated bones. One should be careful not to be too ready to apply traditions found in other (well published) parts of the Country to one's own area if the evidence is actually lacking.

Current knowledge details two certain examples of Neolithic flat-grave or pit burials. There are also several other possible examples.

(I) Ursuline Convent School, 19th C.
Neolithic burials were reported to have been uncovered at this Westgate site in the 19th Century.

NGR TR 3160 6950.

Thanet SMR no.30.
Fisk 2003.

How these burials were identified as Neolithic is not known. It has subsequently been reported (pers comm.) that other burials (of unknown date) have also been encountered during building work in more recent times.

(*) Acol, 1940s.
An unfurnished crouched burial was found during the Second World War at Acol. The grave comprised 'a carefully finished hollow' 3 feet 11 inches long, 2 feet wide at the feet-end and 18 inches wide at the head-end. It was 2 feet 4 inches below the surface and cut into chalk.

'The bones were removed by the police and were destroyed by them after the Coroner had decided that an inquest was unnecessary' (information from Mr. W.P.D. Stebbing, noted in Harrison 1943)

Peter Clark originally listed this find as a possible Neolithic burial (pers comm.), quoting from Ashbee (2005). If Ashbee's sole source is Harrison (1943) then a Neolithic date for the burial is somewhat speculative and unfortunately will remain forever unproven.

Peter Clark pers comm.
Ashbee 2005; Harrison 1943.
12 Grummock Avenue
(II) Nethercourt Farm, Ramsgate, 1949.
A pit burial was found in October 1949, during work on the new housing estate. It now lies approximately in front of 12 Grummock Avenue. The discovery was reported to Mr. W.P.D. Stebbing (FSA) of Deal, who made a record of the feature and retrieved some of the finds.

His reconstructed plan and section drawings are shown below.

Plan and section of the Nethercourt Farm burial
Copyright Dunning 1966

This large pit contained two burials on different levels.

The lower body was probably male, aged 35-45 years. He was laid on his left side and covered by fragments of a large pot, 'apparently spread out to cover the burial'. The fill above this level comprised a solidly packed chalky soil containing many scraps of charcoal, some hardened earth (sub-ceramic soil?), an oyster shell and two flint flakes.

The second, later burial was possibly that of a young adult and it lay at a higher level. The skull was detatched from the rest of the skeleton, which was scattered along the pit. Mr. Stebbing referred to it as 'dismembered'.
Drawing of the Early Neolithic bowl from the Nethercourt Farm burial

Copyright Dunning 1966

The pot (illustrated left and shown restored below) contained a large amount of flint temper. The outer surface had been wiped fairly smooth. The inner surface also showed wiping, which was mainly horizontal on the upper part and in various directions below. The rim was rounded and slightly defined by finger-pinching. There were also two small holes beneath the rim (made from the outside).

A simple decorative scheme (perhaps practical - to aid handling) was formed by parallel and virtually vertical rough scoring marks which extended over the upper half of the pot (shown in the illustration).

The restored Early Neolithic bowl from the Nethercourt Farm burial
Copyright Dunning 1966

It is thought that the pit may have originally been dug for storage and that 'a Neolithic settlement existed in the viscinity' (Dunning 1966). The chance that this pit was dug solely for the purpose of burial cannot be discounted however.

TSMR 39.
Dunning 1966.

Mill Lane and Mill House Margate
(III) Mill Lane Margate, 1975.
Rescue excavation instigated and conducted by John Villette, assisted by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit.

It is reported that Peterborough-style pottery and one potentially Mid/Late Neolithic crouched inhumation burial were found on rescue excavations during the construction of the multi-storey car park
and Mill House at Mill Lane, Margate. The burial was contained within a grave that was cut into the outer causewayed entrance of a double ring-ditch monument.

It is hoped that more information on this excavation will become available soon. (See also the Henges Display).

NGR 635435 170622.

TSMR 365.
Fisk 2003; Mynot 1975.

(IV) Monkton-Minster A253, 1993.
Excavation by Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Excavations in Area 9 revealed a flat-grave (2079) which contained a secondary crouched inhumation burial and (at the north end) the earlier, disarticulated remains of three individuals.
Peter Clark (pers comm.) notes that a large amount of Early Neolithic pottery was recovered from the fill.

The initial burials were of an elderly woman and two children (one aged 2 and another between 8-10). The grave had subsequently been re-opened (at least once) and the new burial added. It was that of a male (aged 19-22), laid on his right side with his head to the south. He was accompanied by a pottery vessel and a flint knife.

Four Beaker burials and a minimum of two other inumations (at least one of which is likely to be Beaker Period) were found during the excavations.

Anderson 1995;
Bennet et al 1996; Fisk 2003.

Peter Clark (pers comm.) reports that aside from the certain Neolithic burial (2079) two other graves (2134 and 2142) have been grouped with it on account of their proximity. Unfortunately they had both suffered from plough-damage and poor bone survival (preventing radiocarbon dating); though grave 2142 produced a few scraps of possible Late Neolithic pottery. The final report on this site is nearing completion.
Chilton, overlooking Pegwell Bay
(V) Chilton Farm, Ramsgate.
The remains of a woman and several flint flakes were found at this site. Scatters of Neolithic pottery were recovered just to the north of this inhumation.

NGR TR 3630 6460.

Fisk 2003.
KSMR  : TR36 SE32 - KE8033.
Site of the Chalk Hill Causewayed Enclosure
(VI) Chalk Hill, Chilton, 1997-98.
Excavation by Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Three flat grave burials were found outside an Earlier Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure. They held no grave-goods and only small scraps of pottery. Their date is uncertain at the moment, but may date to the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

Regarding the Causwayed Enclosure, disarticulated human remains appear confined to the outer of the three ditch circuits. These comprised fragments of three human skulls. Two complete cow skulls were also discovered on the base of these ditches.

Shand 2002.

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

Paul Hart

Version 1 - Posted 26.09.06
Version 2 - Posted 16.12.06

All content © Trust for Thanet Archaeology