Monthly Archives: June 2015

VM_365 Day 362 Guest VM curator on Thanet’s Roman samian pottery

VM 362
For Day 362 of the VM_365 project we have a roundup of the images that accompanied posts made by one of VM_365’s guest curators, Dr. Steve Willis of the University of Kent, an expert of the distinctive Roman samian pottery which has been found on so many of the archaeological sites of Roman Thanet.

Samian vessels featured in several  VM_365 posts. Day 297 featured samian sherds from a site at Dumpton near Broadstairs and Day 102 featured a small samian cup from the remains of a kitchen found at a Roman site in Broadstairs. Day 183 featured a samian sherd  with evidence for a repair from the same site and Day 54 featured a sherd of samian with a name scratched on the surface.

With an expert’s eye and detailed knowledge the assemblages of finds collected by archaeologists can reveal hidden details, even from the smallest elements and Steve’s knowledge of Roman pottery has helped to provide detailed information for a number of VM_365 posts.

One of the most extensively excavated of the major buildings of the Roman period in Thanet is the large Villa at Minster, which appeared in several VM_365 posts. In VM_365 posts  two samian beakers of the rare Dechelette 64 form,  found in the Minster villa excavation, were examined by Dr. Willis. Day 175 of the VM_365 project featured a beaker manufactured in the workshop of Libertus, who was producing pottery at Lezoux in the early 2nd century. The beaker on Day 179 was slightly later, and is decorated with a chase scene. The post also featured an interesting biography of the French archaeologist Joseph Déchelette who first catalogued the samian vessels manufactured in Gaul.

On Day 86 of VM_365 the post visited a box full of samian and other Roman pottery, which belongs to an archive of finds and records which has been given to the Trust to store. Steve was able to examine the pottery contained in the box and to give more detail on the forms and dating of the pottery in a later post on Day 345. in a strange co-incidence, the post written by Steve for Day 346 pointed out that one of the vessels that formed the contents of the wooden storage crate was manufactured in the same place, near Colchester in Essex, nearly two thousand years later. The parallel was drawn that the transport of goods a very useful form of evidence for archaeologists!

The images that went to make up this round up picture were produced by Lloyd Bosworth, archaeological technician at the University of Kent.

VM_365 Day 361 Curator’s Favourites: Producing cloth through the Ages.

VM 361As we have reached the final few days of our VM_365 posts we thought that it would be rather fun to introduce us to you as the Curators of VM_365 using either our favourite images or a summary of the posts that we contributed over the project. Our Curator today is me, Emma.

Today’s image for Day 361 features my favourite four images that we posted for the project. One of my hobbies outside of archaeology is sewing, particularly dressmaking (although do not ask me to take up your trousers or sew on a button which I loathe!). So, it would seem natural that my favourite four images are all implements dating from the Iron Age to the Anglo Saxon period that are associated with the production of cloth.

The manufacture of cloth is a process that is largely alien to most people whether they are interested in sewing or not. Cloth, be it natural or man made is delivered to us in bolts of pre woven fabric from which we can choose our fibre, weight and pattern preferences, we can buy it on the internet, by mail order and in shops. Personally manufacturing our own cloth is a practise long forgotten and these artefacts represent the processes involved when producing your own cloth was a necessity.

The artefact on the top left is a Roman spindle whorl which previously featured on Day 276 of the VM_365 project. This example was recycled from a sherd of 1st century flagon and would have been used to turn the raw product from fleece into yarn. The Spindle whorl was wedged onto a spindle which was suspended upright from the fibres to be turned into yarn. The spindle was set spinning and the twist travelled along the length of the fibres spinning it into yarn.

The artefact shown top right is an iron Age loom weight which previously featured on Day 115 of the VM_365 project. This example would have been used in a  simple warp weighted loom designed to stand against the wall. The loom weights would have been tied to the bottom of the warp (vertical) threads to add tension whilst the cloth was being woven.

The weaving comb shown in the bottom left of the image above is of late Iron Age date and would have been used to push threads into place during weaving. This example featured on Day 110 of the VM_365 project and it is unclear if it had actually been used as the decoration is unfinished and some of the tines are broken.

Pin beaters were used to beat down threads while using a warp weighted loom and the artefact shown middle left is a Middle Saxon bone double ended pin beater which previously featured on Day 144 of VM_365 project. The pin beater has been slightly flattened and polished smooth through frequent use. This artefact is my overall favourite, it is a simple object that has seen heavy use and would most likely have been a treasured tool worn over time to fit the hand of the person using it.

 

 

 

VM_365 Day 360 Reading Street, Broadstairs

VM 360Today’s image for Day 360 of the VM_365 project shows a series of images of another of our Hidden Hamlets in the Our Thanet series this time from Reading Street, Broadstairs.

The hamlet of Reading Street is located on the north side of Broadstairs. The earliest buildings, most of which are located along the main road through the hamlet also known as Reading Street, date from the early 18th century although the hamlet may have had earlier origins; nearby on Elmwood Avenue, east of the main focus of the settlement, is Elmwood Farmhouse, part of which is a 16th century timber framed building.

Roughly knapped flint, with brick dressings is the predominant material used in the construction of the earliest buildings in Reading Street with brick becoming the main material used in the 19th and 20th century as the hamlet expanded.

White Swan cottage (top left) is an early 18th century house set end on to the road and is built of flint with curved Flemish gable ends edged in brick. Further along Reading Street is a second early 18th century Flemish gabled house, Rozine Cottage (top right). At the eastern end of Reading Street there is also a row of cottages built in a similar style with curved gabled ends which were constructed in 1901.

At the western end of Reading Street is a group of cottages dating to the early 18th century (bottom left). One of these cottages, Joss Cottage, is where the legendary local smuggler Joss Snelling is reported to have lived. The end wall of Corner Cottage which faces on to Astor Road is particularly interesting as it features a number of blocked window openings. At the western end of the group is a particularly striking cottage with a three storey, early to mid-19th century component built of flint with stock brick dressings (bottom right).

Trinity Square is a little side road leading from Reading Street which contains an interesting mix of small 19th and 20th century houses and cottages in both flint and brick. Trinity Cottage on the corner of Reading Street, (top middle) is a pretty example of a 19th century cottage faced in flint with stock brick dressings.

Reading Street has plenty of other interesting buildings that have not been featured here including Elmwood, which was the home of Cecil Harmsworth, the famous newspaper proprietor who later became Lord Northcliffe and was Propaganda Minister during the first World War.

VM_365 Day 359 North Foreland historic landscape

VM 359

For the image today, Day 359 of the VM_365 project, we have a view in the Our Thanet series, taken from the crest of the hill at Elmwood Avenue and facing east across a valley cutting the chalk downland to reach the sea at Joss bay on the left side, between the Oast House and the North Foreland lighthouse.

The lighthouse stands at the northern end of the North Foreland promontory, an isolated chalk ridge which runs across the horizon in the picture and on which some of Thanet’s most significant prehistoric discoveries have been made. The North Foreland is one of the geographical features of the British Isles whose name (Kantion) was recorded in ancient literature by the 3rd century BC Greek explorer, sailor and navigator Pytheus of Massilia (modern Marseille).

On the valley slope to the right of the lighthouse a very complex cropmark of linear ditches and other features is often visible from the viewpoints around the valley. Excavations over many years have revealed that the cropmarks are the visible indicator of the very extensive prehistoric settlement that occupies the chalk ridge.

At the right hand end of the image, a large residential block marks the site of the former St. Stephens college, where one of the largest excavations took place in 1999 and 2003. Previous VM_365 posts have explored the Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary monuments that were positioned with care to overlook the valley. Close to the new residential block a small Bronze Age round barrow was excavated in 1999. In one terminal of a gap in the circuit, the excavators revealed an unusual burial which had been covered with a large piece of whalebone.

Examples of some of the earliest coins to have been produced by the Iron Age rulers of Kent have been found on the North Foreland, some connecting the area to the dynastic struggles that were affecting the people of Britain and the continent. The extensive Iron Age settlement  produced many interesting finds, including a pair of Iron Bridle bits.

Another series of VM_365 posts explored the fascinating story that is told by the discovery of an Iron Age burial inserted into a large abandoned grain storage pit. Was this a casual burial or a more formal rite taking advantage of the prepared ground of the abandoned settlement? Three blue glass beads worn around the neck of the woman buried in the pit suggest the latter.

Several smaller sites have been excavated when the opportunity arises through house building or redevelopment on the estate that now encompasses the crest of the ridge. These have shown that the ridge was widely settled over a long period of time. One of the most significant finds was a Beaker period burial, discovered only a few centimetres below the drive of a house that had been built in the early 20th century. Archaeological monitoring of the house building plots has also shown that the ridge was heavily terraced while developing the estate and perhaps many archaeological sites were destroyed without record in the past.

The area is certainly one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the Isle of Thanet and much must remain to be learned about this area.

VM_365 Day 358 La Tène style vessel from Fort Hill, Margate

VM 358

Today’s image for Day 358 of the VM_365 project shows a fine, mid to late Iron Age pottery vessel. This vessel was excavated from a pit on an Iron Age settlement site at Fort Hill, Margate in the late 1990’s which has previously featured on Day 82 of the VM_365 project.

The pottery sherds are decorated in La Tène II style and date to c. 250-125 BC. The vessel, probably a product of a local pottery industry in the continental style,  is decorated with Iron Oxide pigment which colours the swirls in the decoration as dark red.  A vessel of a similar style was excavated by Dr Arthur Rowe in 1924 at Tivoli, Margate and featured on Day 226 of the VM_365 project

VM_365 Day 357 Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs historic landscape

VM 357

Today’s image for Day 357 is another one in the Our Thanet thread for VM_365. The overview of Dumpton Gap is taken from near the entrance to Seacroft Road, which is on the extreme left of the image. The view faces north across the bay where the deep valley meets the sea at the high chalk cliffs on the right side of the image.

Only as far back as the late 19th century this landscape was open downland, but at the beginning of the 20th century, the benevolent seaside landscape attracted several large convalescent homes, which were served by new roads that were laid out on the cliff top esplanade. A view similar to the one in today’s image was published in a 1907 sale catalogue for plots in the area, posted on Day 41 of the VM_365 project.

In the process of creating the framework of the dense suburb that now covers the valley, many significant archaeological discoveries were made. The earliest of these were recorded by Howard Hurd, one of Thanet’s heritage pioneers,  who as Borough Surveyor for Broadstairs and St. Peters laid out much of the road network which can be seen in the catalogue photograph.

On the slopes of the far side of the valley, on the horizon just left of the centre of the image is Valletta House, now Bradstow School, where Howard Hurd excavated and published a Bronze Age round Barrow and Anglo-Saxon cemetery. The site went on to be explored in several excavations as the gardens surrounding the house were developed over the next century revealing more Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age features, as well as a further burial from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

On the far left side of the image, an extensive Iron Age settlement located on the southern side of the valley which later became the site of a Roman building,  was discovered by Howard Hurd in the early 20th century. A bone weaving comb from the site was published on Day 110 of the VM_365 project.

The site was explored further  in several excavations from the 1960’s to the 21st century when the development of suburban roads and closes with characteristic bungalows and semi-detached houses, were explored by Joe Coy, another important heritage pioneer. Pottery of Iron Age and Roman date from these excavations featured in several previous VM_365 posts.

The landscape shown in today’s post is perhaps one of the richest sources of archaeological information in Kent, but is little known in the wider archaeological community because of the limited circulation of the publications of the excavations and the lack of any recent attempt to bring all the sites together and reconsider their significance. Perhaps this overview for the VM_365 project will serve as a start in that process.

VM_365 Day 356 Historic Margate ancient and modern

VM 356The image for day 356, which continues our intermittent Our Thanet series is a panoramic view of part of Margate, taken across the roof of the Margate Winter Gardens and facing the terrace of houses standing on Fort Hill. The roof top of the Turner Centre, overlooking the historic Margate Pier can be seen on the far right of the image.

Although much celebrated for its recent arty renaissance in association with the Turner Contemporary Galery and the the Dreamland theme park which opened its doors again this weekend, this area is one of Margate and Thanet’s richest areas for the archaeology of the Iron Age and Roman period.

An Iron Age burial lying in a circular pit cut into the chalk geology was found during the demolition of parts of the former Cobbs Brewery complex and the construction of a  Police Station which stands behind the last buildings at the right hand end of the terrace.

The remains of post built structures and pits also dating to the Iron Age indicated that a settlement had been present and a fine La Tene style decorated vessel found in a large pit nearby demonstrated something of the high status of the settlement.

Behind the houses at the centre of the image, in the area of Trinity Square redevelopment has revealed a dense cluster of Iron Age and Roman features cut into the chalk, these include several storage pits and at least three more pit burials. Roman cremations contained in pottery vessels were found in construction work in the 19th century, in the area behind the right hand end of the terrace of buildings shown in the picture.

The terrace of houses in today’s image follows the crest of one side of the deep valley that carries the Dane Stream to the Bay at Margate. On the downslope beyond the terrace are the subterranean passages of the Margate Caves and the Shell Grotto.

Until it was  sealed in a culvert in the Early 19th century the Dane Stream ran along the base of the valley parallel with the terrace in the image. The water supply for the Reeves and Co. Soda Water plant was drawn from this stream. Nearby, at the junction with Trinity Square and King Street at the bottom the valley is the restored 15th century house, formerly known as the Old House but now called the Tudor House. Adjacent to the house are the remains of a 17th century Malt House, which was  associated with Cobbs Brewery which extended over a large part of the valley slope at Fort Hill.

Margate continues to occupy a place in the nations heart as a quintessential seaside town. The image of the knife we posted on Day 95  shows that even the town’s newer attractions like  Dreamland, restored and re-opened as an attraction to a new generation of visitors produced its own historic artefacts to be  discovered by contemporary archaeologists.

Such a significant gathering place generates its own archaeological footprint and the ancient discoveries from the same area show that the landscape around Margate has been a place of gathering for over two millennia.

VM_365 Day 355 Farewell to all that

VM 355

Today’s post for Day 355 of the VM_365 project features a series of images behind the scenes at our Friendships and Fallouts, Waterloo to World War One TimeTunnel, which has featured in the last four days of VM_365.

Day 351 took you through the first stage of the Tunnel, exploring Britain at the time of Waterloo, Day 352 took us to the Victorian period and the Crimean War. The industrial era and the age of Inventions in the 19th century featured on Day 353 and we entered World War One on Day 354.

Today’s picture shows how we built the flats that featured in the Time Tunnel and some of the scenes along the way, as well as some of the lighter moments of setting up and running the Time Tunnel experience.

Once again we had great fun at Bradstow School and we hope that we gave an interesting and educational experience to our travellers through time.

It all over now, and it isn’t even Christmas

VM_365 Day 354 Waterloo to WW1 event. Stage 4

VM 354

Today’s image for Day 354 show the final stages in our TimeTunnel journey from Waterloo to World War One that we have been delivering to local schools at Bradstow School, Broadstairs this week.

Day 351 covered the first stage in the TimeTunnel journey from the battle of Waterloo to what life was like in Britain in 1815; Day 352 described the second stage which took us from Queen Victoria to the Crimean War and Day 353 covered the Industrial Revolution and the growing threat from a unified of Germany.

Our final stage in the TimeTunnel allowed our visitors to find out what life was like in the First World War both at home and abroad. In the image show in the top left of the picture our factory wall holds a number of posters that were pasted up around towns and cities encouraging men to join up to fight in the war and women to contribute to the war effort by working in munitions factories. Even chickens were enlisted into the war effort to provide eggs for wounded soldiers! On the opposite face of the wall pictures of women working in munitions factories gave our visitors an idea of what it was like for women at home and a series of pictures of troops from different parts of the empire, in particular the South African 1st Infantry Brigade and Indian Bicycle Troops who both fought at the Somme emphasise that it was not just European soldiers fighting and dying in this war.

That the war was now no longer restricted to the battle field but could also threaten the lives of people at home through bombing from both aeroplane and Zeppelins, which were relatively recent inventions, was highlighted in the next vignette of a bomb damaged house (image top right).  Here our visitors were told of the Zeppelin attacks on the local area including Bradstow School itself and that nearby Ramsgate was the most bombed seaside town in World War 1.

Our final vignette showed our visitors what life might have been like living in the trenches. Food was most likely taken from a tin and probably consisted of Bully Beef or Irish Stew, other items also came in tins including tobacco, like the vintage ones we had on display alongside an example of a corned beef tin, similar to the ones used in the trenches.

As we entered the recreation of a World War 1 trench we explained how the camaraderie of soldiers under stressful conditions of battle would have forged some of the most important friendships among service men. To give a sense of the uncertainty of their lives our young visitors were invited to leave the trench at the sound of the officers whistle, leaving the TimeTunnel to return to their lives in the present.

 

 

VM_365 Day 353 Waterloo to WW1 event. Stage 3

VM 353The VM_365 post for Day 353 shows the third two stages in our TimeTunnel, built for four days of school activities at Bradstow School in Broadstairs in which we trace the changes in British society from the end of the Napoleonic Wars with the Battle of Waterloo to the beginning of World War 1.

Yesterday’s post for Day 352 of the VM_365 project followed the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne, her marriage to Prince Albert, the expansion of the British empire and also took a brief look at the Crimean War.

In today’s image you can see the third two stages of our journey through the TimeTunnel into the Industrial Age. Using our specially constructed chimney, shown on the right, (which includes real smoke) we introduce our visitors to what life might have been like in our Industrial towns as more people were now living in towns than in the rural countryside. Coal was being burnt to produce steam power which in turn allowed more steam powered machinery to be used, leading to higher volumes in manufacturing of all types of goods.

Our visitors then explore where coal comes from and we emphasise that children as young as ten had full time jobs working in coal mines, often for long hours so that they could contribute to the family wage. Our modern day visitors then have an opportunity to pass through our short section of coal mine, avoiding the coal carts running on rails within the tunnel which is shown in the image on the left.

After exiting the coal mine safely (we hope) our visitors are then shown some of the major inventions of the industrial and early modern age which include the car, the zeppelin and the aeroplane; machinery that was later put to use in World War I.

Our visitors are also given a taste of the Boer War where Khaki uniforms and trench warfare are used for the first time. The circumstances of the establishment of Germany and the insecurities that the development of such a potentially powerful state caused among the other countries in Europe are then explained. The creation of new allies and friendships against the threat from the newly formed Germany are briefly introduced as well as a new fallout in the Royal family between Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and King George V, King of England, who were first cousins and both grandsons of Queen Victoria.

Tomorrow we will explore the last stage in our Time Tunnel and find out what happened in World War I and where the most important friendships were made………