Saturday, 7 January 2017

Digging up the Past

Ahead of gravel extraction from ‘Kingsnorth Quarry’ near Hoo, recent investigations by a team from the Museum of London Archaeology, carried out between September and October 2016, on behalf of Tarmac, found evidence of multiple periods of occupation.

Archaeologists working on site, after the topsoil was stripped.

Much of what was discovered appears to relate to features illustrated on 19th century maps, such as former field boundaries and the remains of orchards, although predictably the majority of the archaeological features were in close proximity to existing buildings or those shown on historic maps, including rubbish pits from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

However, some pits contained fragments of medieval pottery – testifying to the continuous and lengthy occupation of the area.

Many pits contained Roman or prehistoric pottery, suggesting that the area may have been more densely populated in the past, but due to the effects of ploughing over several hundred years, only the base of these older features survive.

The only direct evidence for human occupation was recovery of partially disarticulated human bones mixed up in the lower fill of a pit, pictured below.  It is uncertain whether these remains represent one of more individuals or whether they were deposited as part of a deliberate, but unusual, burial ritual.

Human bones in probable Roman pit.

The remains were sealed under a layer of debris from a collapsed wattle-and-daub building.  An adjacent pit also had a layer of wattle-and-daub debris containing Roman pottery.  It is possible to speculate that these findings may represent the residents of a Roman settlement that might have succumbed to a violent and untimely end, although further analysis is needed by osteoarchaeologists to determine the age and gender of the remains and possibly the cause and nature of their demise.

Probable Roman field ditch (marked in yellow).

The Roman pottery recovered from the pits consisted of ‘Samian’ pottery, pictured below, a fine red tableware imported from Roman Gaul.  This distinctive pottery suggests some of the Roman features may date from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Roman pottery from Gaul with maker’s stamp on base.

Other findings discovered included prehistoric pottery, suggesting occupation in the area may stretch back into the Iron Age or Bronze Age periods.

Information and images appear courtesy of Museum of London Archaeology, Andy Richmond of Phoenix Consulting Archaeology Ltd and David Brown of Tarmac.