Masses of new finds at Folkestone archaeological dig

Contributed by editor on Oct 05, 2017 - 11:55 AM


By Ray Duff

The final weekend of excavation at the internationally important archaeological site at East Wear Bay (East Cliff), Folkestone has now taken place.


After starting in early July 2017 on a daily basis for one month, and excavations after that on weekends only from early August to the end of September, this years dig has now been completed.

The dig, known as the 'East Wear Bay Archaeology Field School', is run by Canterbury Archaeology Trust with regular assistance from members of the Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group, Dover Archaeology Group, and Kent Archaeological Society.

Top: The site trench dig in full swing in Week 2  Below: Staff and students in the SE corner discuss the site. Photos: Ray Duff

It began it's month long daily excavation sessions on 10 July with the arrival of the first tranche of students whose payments greatly help fund the ongoing digs alongside day experiences (See the EWBAP website for more info).


The large trench opened this year is still a little way from the Roman Villas site which is situated nearer to the toilet block on East Cliff and follows on from the excavations over the past two years at the neighbouring site to the north, a small part of the massive mostly Iron Age settlement which surrounds the Villas.

The finds from each period are briefly listed below and please see the photographs also.

Bronze Age:

Whilst it is considered that there was a settlement of some sort from this period at East Cliff, its extent remains unknown and was probably mainly further forward than the Iron Age occupation and so has now been lost to erosion. However, a number of artefacts of this period have been found across the area, and this year a late Bronze Age 'tanged' flint arrow head, and some other flint items, was found. This at least further confirms the local activity.

Top: The finds-washing team in full swing  Below: Trays of washed finds of various types dry in the sun  Photos: Ray Duff

Iron Age:

This is the prime period featured and covering the northern side of the main trench a 'pond' feature was excavated which is currently dated to around the middle Iron Age (circa 3-400 BC) from the pottery finds. Exactly how long it had been there before this is speculative only, but it may have been extant for quite some time. Plenty of other items including more pottery, flint and some bone and especially seashell were recovered from the pond area.

A later Early1stC BC Field Boundary ditch cut across the site on the western side and through the pond feature. The ditch was a continuation of the one found the previous two years and looks to continue further down towards the Villas. The ditch was later back-filled with earth (circa early 1stC AD) and diggers found shallow gullies of the Roman period crossing it, along with a pit containing quern (corn-grinding) stones, among other finds.

Left: The 'Late Bronze Age 'tanged' flint arrowhead Right: The 'Carmen' terra rubra pot  Photos: Ray Duff

Other parts of the main trench also contained further post-holes and large pits which contained pot, bone and quern stone pieces etc. A curving gully near the south end might indicate another Roundhouse (a living space) but this will have to be confirmed or not next year. Among the many finds across the main trench were a Kentish made platter, an imitation of imported (Roman) terra negra (Latin- Black Earth) pottery.

Part of the site was also again covered in greensand chippings and nearby a number of quern (corn-grinding) stones and parts thereof. This appears to be a continuation of, but might be the edge of the main quern production site, the first ever found anywhere in the UK as found over the last two years in the neighbouring trench. The stone came from nearby quarrying around Copt Point, and the querns are known to have been shipped around the coast and taken inland but as yet none found on the Continent.

Again much pottery, the main dating evidence from most archaeological sites, was recovered alongside animal bone, eg, pig (Boar), cow, sheep, and some horn and antler. These and a great many flint pieces and implements, quern pieces, a very rare bracelet made from non-local shale, a small flint hand-axe, a smoothed bone implement, shells, and much else was excavated.

Left: The Kentish made imitation terra negra platter Right: Quernstones lifted this year, including a highly finished bottom stone Photos: Ray Duff

Roman Era.

As mentioned some shallow gullies crossed the site near the west end, which were again linked to those found in the previous two years digs. One dates from the 1st-2ndC AD and the other the 3rdC AD. Thus both very likely a direct link to those living at or subordinate to those living at the Villas.


Further, in the far SE corner a gully, cut into by an early 1stC AD one, was found to contain some Roman era brokent floor and hypocaust tiles and some pieces of a 'Carmen' style terra rubra (Latin- Red Earth) pot dated to circa 15BC-AD65.

Next Steps

The finds and other evidence from this years dig will now be sent for recording, marking and study, and later join the previous information found.

The site is due to re-open next year in early July, but in the meantime to view some of the early finds from when the Roman Villas were first found, in 1924, please visit Folkestone Museum. (The Old Town Hall, 1-2 Guildhall St. Open: 10am - 4pm Mon-Sats.

Interesting links

Canterbury Archaeology Trust 
East Wear Bay Field School 
Folkestone Research and Archaeology Group
Kent Archaeological Society 
Folkestone Museum.



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