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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Cooling, near Rochester --
A Romano-British Industrial Site.
by A Miles and M J E Syddell.
(Lower Medway Archaeological Research Group.)

The excavation of this site. which is being sponsored by the Lower Medway Archaeological Research Group, is to investigate the nature and purpose of the Romano-British industrial activity and to prove the existence of a settlement. Preliminary trial trenching, undertaken during 1966 as a part of the Regional Survey programme, confirmed the presence of a large site covering nearly three acres of the Cooling marshes. The area had been previously investigated by Mr F Muggeridge, during 1928-36 (Arch. Cant., xlii; Arch. Cant., xlv), when a low mound was found to contain briquetage, Romano-British pottery and a clay figurine. Further work proved the existence of at least twelve kilns and a cemetery with many inhumations.

Over the past four months, with the kind permission of Mr Bucknall, the present owner, work has been undertaken in the area, which from the previous year's trial trenching was believed to be a late first century settlement with rectangular wooden buildings. This suggestion seems to have been confirmed by the discovery of shallow foundation trenches, rectangular in plan, with the remains of flint footings. Associated with these trenches was a large storage jar with two complete pie dishes inside, which may have served as a latrine. The evidence suggested a late first century or early second century date for these features.

This year's finds consisted of much coarse pottery, mainly pie dishes, which may have been made on the site, and a bone pin, a brooch, several whet stones and the base of a glass vessel. A puddingstone quern and fragments of a Mayen lava quern have been found, together with a large deposit, which appears to be of vegetable origin, that may prove to be the remains of a cereal crop. Salt-panning debris is well represented by the many fragments of briquetage and slag found all over the site. A particularly well preserved piece of an evaporating vessel or mould has been recovered, although the main industrial area is believed to be about 100 yards or so to the east of the settlement site.

Although much work remains to be done before the results can be evaluated, the site would appear to be a settlement with a range of activities from pottery making and salt-panning to corn growing; the occupation probably starting in the second half of the first century and closing some time in the third.

This excavation is in the nature of a long term rescue operation, as the field, which is at present pasture land, will be tile drained, deep ploughed and reclaimed for agricultural use in five years time. The site itself poses many problems; the main difficulty being the high water table, which is not surprising as the surface of the site is two feet below the high water mark in the Thames Estuary! To make matters worse the alluvial clay fractures and shatters when dry, leading to many difficulties with section drawing and photography. However work will continue every Sunday, until at least November, weather permitting. If anyone wishes to take part in this unusual but interesting work we shall be pleased to hear from them.

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