Virtual Museum Logo
Bronze Age 2000 - 700 BC

Return to Roundbarrows Display

Display Contents

Ring-ditches and roundbarrows of Thanet - Section 1

Section 1


The numbers game

Ring-ditches and roundbarrows of Thanet  - Section 1

The Causewayed roundbarrow North Foreland III

The small Causewayed roundbarrow North Foreland III discovered at the former St. Stephen's College site, North Foreland, Broadstairs

Characterising the distribution

Section 3

A new review

New discoveries/old

Coastal erosion

An estimated total


Aerial photographs of Thanet's fertile agricultural lands have helped to reveal the hidden history of the Isle, demonstrating the rich archaeological legacy created by our ancestors.

These aerial photographs (APs) have shown that Thanet has a large number of ring-ditch monuments, the vast majority representing Bronze Age roundbarrows. The ring-ditches appear in single, double and triple-concentric ring forms; the multiple rings resulting from the re-use and refurbishment of earlier monuments.
Section 4




Section 5

Causewayed ditches



Several of the ring-ditch cropmarks have been tested by excavation in recent years and these add to our knowledge of some that were excavated before the aerial photographic resource was available.

While the best efforts have always been made to identify and plot the ring-ditch monuments from (frequently oblique) APs, it is not possible to present a single, unarguable figure or plan of the total number of these monuments present in the landscape.

Cropmarks are dependant on the underlying soil type, the ground cover or vegetation, agriculture and the changing seasons.

Photographs of the same field may reveal different cropmarks at different times over many years.

What we can say is that the data revealed in these ongoing studies represents the minimum baseline figures for Thanet's roundbarrows - an impressive statistic in itself!
Aerial photograph of Half Mile Ride, Margate showing ring-ditch cropmarks likely representing the remains of two roundbarrows

Photographer unknown

Cropmarks of two roundbarrows at Half Mile Ride, Margate


The information contained within these pages has been obtained from three different sources:
Click here to read a summary of the interpretation of Thanet's cropmark evidence provided in the RCHME report (1989)

  • A survey by the Air Photography Unit of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (RCHME) resulted in the publication of a series of maps and a report (1989) on cropmark data from Kent and Thanet.

  • The RCHME survey formed the basis for work conducted by David Perkins who researched Thanet's roundbarrow landscape for his Doctoral Thesis (1999). He also augmented the data by reviewing other sources of aerial photographs, including those taken by private individuals and the Potato Marketing Board, while adding information on lost barrows recorded in written sources over the last couple of hundred years. The data presented in his survey does not include any monuments that could be identified as enclosures rather than potential roundbarrows or those likely to be Anglo-Saxon in origin.

  • In 2003 Mrs P.M. Fisk made another vital contribution in compiling a comprehensive Gazetteer of 43 ring-ditch and roundbarrow sites excavated on Thanet. This was done as a dissertation for her Degree in Archaeology at the University of Kent at Canterbury.
Aerial photograph of cropmarks at Great Brooksend Farm, some now Scheduled Ancient Monuments

Photographer unknown

Multiple cropmarks at Great Brooksend Farm


The numbers game

The RCHME survey of Kent (1989) reported the following cropmark sites:
Concentric BA ring-ditches: 50
Single BA ring-ditches with internal features: 73
Single BA ring-ditches without  internal features: 518
EMED* (ie Saxon) ring ditches with internal features: 30
EMED* (ie Saxon) ring ditches with internal features: 169

* in this report it was decided that ring-ditches less than 10m in diameter were provisionally dated as Early Medieval (ie. Saxon), while diameters of 10-30m were dated as Bronze Age.   

Subsequently Dr. David Perkins (1999) stated that 739 ring-ditch cropmarks were known from Kent; the vast majority of which were likely to represent roundbarrows. Dividing these along geographical lines, he reported that:

356 (48.2%) of these fall within East Kent's 'Sutton wedge'. This is an area of 234 square km which shows a high concentration of archaeological sites and has the village of Sutton at its centre.

315 (42.6%) appear in Thanet, contained within an area of only approximately 64 square km.

68 (9.2%) can be seen in the rest of Kent; mostly on high ground west of the Medway.
Ring-ditch cropmarks at Lord of the Manor

Ring-ditch cropmarks
at Lord of the Manor, Ramsgate

Photographer unknown

Not all soils or types of ground-cover are conducive to the formation and identification of cropmarks of course and much may remain concealed or have been destroyed by subsequent development.

Peter Clark (pers comm.) noted that Canterbury Trust's excavations on the Monkton-Minster A253 road scheme (1993) revealed the presence of more roundbarrow monuments than had been indicated by the cropmark data (despite the fact that the underlying chalk geology usually provides the best circumstances for cropmark formation).

Dr. David Perkins' comprehensive study (1999) reviewed
aerial photographs from several different sources and this revealed more ring-ditches than had been seen in a published RCHME survey. In comparing Perkins' plan of Thanet's ring-ditch cropmarks with the RCHME plots it can been seen that within some 500 square metre locations he had discovered up to six extra ring-ditch cropmarks.

This all helps to illustrate that the statistics concerning Thanet's roundbarrow archaeology must be taken in context and viewed as  minimum estimates  only.

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

Paul Hart

Version 1 : Posted 10.08.06
Version 2 : Posted 21.10.06

All content © Trust for Thanet Archaeology