A Cornish Vessel from Farthest Kent

By Gibson, Alex; MacPherson-Grant, Nigel et al. | Antiquity, June 1997 | Go to article overview

A Cornish Vessel from Farthest Kent


Gibson, Alex, MacPherson-Grant, Nigel, Stewart, Ian, Antiquity


Introduction

During excavations by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust on behalf of Kent County Council Highways department in advance of the proposed A253 road improvements at Monkton, Thanet, prehistoric burials and ritual monuments were discovered in three main groups [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 1 OMITTED]. Within these three cemeteries were 10 ditched barrows, as well as a number of other prehistoric burial features (Stewart in prep.). Ringditch X, located in Barrow Cemetery C, to the eastern end of the development (NGR TR304657), appeared to comprise a single-phase monument consisting of a continuous ring-ditch within which lay a severely plough-truncated cremation burial associated with Deverel-Rimbury pottery.

The sub-circular ring-ditch had an inner diameter of 9 m. It survived to a depth of I m below the present surface of the chalk; the ditch had an upper width of 2 m and a lowermost width of 0.12 m. The lowest fill of the ditch comprised a primary deposit of discoloured chalk-dust silting. Above this, occupying the lower third of the ditch, was a loosely packed layer of chalk fragments eroded from the side of the ditch. The upper two-thirds of the ditch silts comprised a layer of compacted brown silts with chalk fragments and above this, sandy brown loam with chalk flecks. These latter layers represent the final slow silts of the ditch.

In the eastern arc of the ring ditch, immediately above the primary silts and below the loosely packed chalk fragments, lay the crushed remains of two-thirds of a Trevisker Urn, the spectacular find which is the subject of this report [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED].

The vessel's form, decoration, strap cordon and internally crossed base clearly place the vessel in the middle Bronze Age Trevisker tradition of southwestern Britain. Petrological analysis (by Alan Vince) has confirmed the writer's macroscopic identification of a Cornish clay source and this petrology, combined with the style of the vessel, leaves little doubt that this pot was imported to Kent from the southwest peninsula. At 60 cm high and with a rim diameter of 27.5 cm, this barrel-shaped vessel would have had a capacity of over 30 l (c. 7 gallons). Its style must have been unusual to the prehistoric population of Thanet and, when taken with the size and fineness of the vessel, this pot must have been a prestigious item.

Around two-thirds of the vessel survive but the breaks appear fresh and suggest that the vessel was only recently broken prior to its deposition. The fabric averages 8 mm thick, it is hard and well-fired and the patchy black/ grey-brown surfaces have a pink core. Both surfaces are well-finished with traces of burnishing marks and there are large arcs of concentric finishing scratches on the interior. Traces of ring or coil joins may be seen in the fabric breaks. The outer surface bears carbonaceous encrustations and has horizontal burnishing marks particularly on the rim and around the cordon.

The rim is everted, externally rolled with a flat, undecorated internal bevel 30 mm wide. A large applied strap-cordon 35 mm wide overall is located c. 130 mm below the rim. The cordon, which is particularly burnished, stands 3-4 mm proud of the underlying vessel surface. The vessel's outer surface is particularly carbon-encrusted on and below this cordon and is currently undergoing absorbed residue analysis by Dr Richard Evershed at Bristol University. Fingernail marks above the cordon represent marks resulting from the application of the feature; they have been burnished over but imperfectly erased.

The neck of the vessel between rim and cordon is decorated with 1.5 lines of deep and well-defined herring-bone incision. The lines start with a top-left to bottom-right diagonal slant and are all broad and shallow with internal scratch lines visible in the bases of the incisions. A large applied cross-rib is located on the base of the urn. Like the outer cordon, this has been applied. …

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