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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Iron Age pottery and gold coin under our feet and paws!

Hello everyone. Imagine an Iron Age gold coin has been under the ground where your take your dog for a walk. That's what happened. I used to walk Topaz to a part of Kent University ground everyday during summer. She chased rabbits, ran as if there had been no tomorrow, and rolled on the grass. We saw a beautiful fox sleeping under the bush and a dead shrew after heavy rain.

Kent University decided to build a new college on the site. Archaeologists were called in. They found Iron Age settlement and a beautiful a gold coin with a stylised horse on it.
Iron Age gold coin made in a place which is now Belgium
It looks as shiny as when it was made about 2000 years ago.

4.2 hectare archaeological site on Kent University campus
Yesterday Mike suddenly told me that the site is holding Open day until a half past four. I took a day off from the studio. Instead I was reading financial reports coming out this week at home. Mike has been busy recently and he often started at eight, so he was planning to leave at four. So we decided to meet up at the site at four. Our house is very close to University ground, about 2 minutes on foot to the edge of it. But this site is on the hill, so it took me about 12 minutes on foot. Mike was already there. His office is much closer. Both Mike and I are alumni of Kent University. We used to walk on the hill with Topaz so often. Mike used to live in a college adjacent to the site before we married. It was almost his garden!

There were a couple of tents, where excavated artefacts were displayed. Surprisingly, there was Iron Age pottery.

Iron Age pottery shard
They used to heat up flint stones, which are very common in this area until they broke up to small pieces, and then they mixed the pieces with local clay. White pieces in the pottery above are flint stones.

There are lots of flint stones in our garden, but once a while we see this red stones. They are pretty and I like them, so I have collected some from the garden. Now I know that they are probably remnants of iron age pottery industry!

Heated flint stone became white outside and red inside. 

Iron Age pottery shards
We were taken to guided tour of the site. This is where pottery was made. The black part was fired place. Archaeologists think that Iron Age people layered unfired pots and combustible material, covered them and fired the pottery (pit firing).  

Iron Age kiln from top view

Iron Age kiln side view
Now you probably wonder what they made. They made pots used for rituals. This pot is going to be CT scanned, so that contents will not be disturbed. 

Iron Age pottery
They were also used for burials. The burial area was most likely to be fenced off; there were posts holes surrounding the area. We stood in the middle of it. (Well, it used to be a rough football pitch, and we used to run around with Topaz)

This is one of the holes. There were lots of them. 

Burial pot was excavated from this hole
The picture below shows how it was found.

Burial pot

They also made spindle whorls and weights for looms. It is so interesting. I have read about the oldest textiles made from a loom and the oldest ceramic found in the Ice age settlement in central Europe while I was writing an essay a couple of months ago. I wanted to visit the sites and museums in Czech and Germany. I had never expected that I would see something like this so close to us.  

It is on the top of the hill. Our house is five minutes walk from the building, the top of which is visible on the right side.

Actively digging!

Topaz used to run around this 4.2 hectares' ground

Canterbury archaeological trust's cool van.

We were shown also a boundary ditch.

A boundary ditch
These are charred grains. They are spelt, emmer and something else I don't remember. (they identify grain species from chaffs easily, but not from grain itself.)  We were told that because the soil is so acidic, only charred things survived.

First I thought they were mice dropping! 

Bronze bell

After the guided tour, we looked around the site. Because of the construction, I haven't come here for a couple of years. The ground was dug this deep.  

About 60 cm
When we walked home, we walked passed the place they dumped top soil. The 4.2 hectares of 60 cm top soil is this much! And this is only fraction of it.

I love history and love even more prehistoric artefacts. I feel so lucky to be able to see them so close from home. Now I am more curious about the things I found in our own garden. I found a little shell shape bronze some years ago, I am now thinking to take it the trust so that they could look at it. 


  1. what an amazing coin, pot, and bell; it's a lot of hard work and patience excavating those ancient sites. I did one in college of native American Indians and had to count all the chips of obsidian from their arrows. oh my,

    1. It's so exciting! I keep finding lots of things in the garden. I had better keep them! Digging seems dusty, hot and back aching job! I am just happy to look at what they have found. Well done on your counting chips! ; )

  2. Fascinating , the whole account.
    That coin is beautiful, of course I love that it has a horse on it, 2000 years old ~ amazing.
    You and Mike have been having quite the treat lately !

    1. It was truly amazing! I was like struck by lightening - a weak one ;) Yes, we are having lots of fun recently! : ) I will dig a part of the garden to see if I can find something old once veg have finished. : D

  3. Hi Midori, this is a very interesting post, I enjoyed it, thanks! I love artefacts which connect us directly with the daily life of ancestors. Interesting too that they added crushed flint to the clay .. I wonder if this was decorative or to strengthen the clay, like adding grog?

    1. They said that it was to prevent cracking. So, yes, just like grog we add. The pots have thick walls, and I imagine lots of them wouldn't make firing without flint chips, as firing must have been quite uneven. I wonder you might be able to experiment with your gas kiln firing. : )

      I am still spellbound. I think I saw a coarse black pottery piece with flint chips in the garden. Because there are lots of medieval pot pieces around here, I thought it was one of them, and chucked it away! I will be more careful next time. : )

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