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Kent Archaeological Review extract

by C P Ward.
(Otford Historical Society Archaeological Group.)

Since the last report (KAR Number 6, page 8) the Group has Continued the excavation of the Romano-British site at Frog Farm, Otford. This, unlike Gaul, is divided into two parts; the second century AD cemetery and an occupation-site which lies a third of a mile to the north-west. Both are on a clay-gravel subsoil about a third of a mile west of the river Darent and some twenty feet above its present level. The ground slopes gently towards the river and the so-called Pilgrim's Way passes close to the south of both sides.

So far the cemetery has produced 74 cremation burial-groups, usually consisting of coarse cooking pots used as burial-urns (in one instance -- Group 64 -- a large Poppy-head beaker was so used) containing calcined bone fragments. These are accompanied in most cases by food vessels, platters, etc. No definite limit has been found to the cemetery in any direction.

Agricultural needs have precluded regular work on this site in recent months, but thanks to the kindness of the farmers we were able to explore a section of the manure heap over Easter, 1968 -- before the hot weather set in!

A 15 foot Grid was opened up to the north of and including the wall found in 1966. This revealed the partly-robbed foundations of a regular octagonal structure with an overall diameter of 22 feet. The purpose of this building is as yet unknown, but if contemporary with the cemetery it may have been of religious significance possibly a mausoleum or monument.

The 3 feet thick walls consisted of a 6-inch foundation of large flints surmounted by a thin layer of comminuted tile. Upon this were set roughly faced ragstone blocks with a central core of flints bonded with off-white mortar.

Indications over the whole cemetery area suggest that the Roman ground-level was about one foot higher than at present, thus most of the grave-groups have sustained plough damage. Within the walls a floor level was uncovered a foot below the modern surface, thus it was originally some two feet deep. This floor consisted of the natural subsoil somewhat reddened and with a light scatter of broken tile on it. Almost in the centre was a 20-inch square pit 16 inches deep. This retained the remains of a lining of white cement containing chalk lumps. On the bottom were two small pieces of half-inch thick lead sheeting. This " cist " was filled with broken roof tiles (imbrex and tegula and opus signinum.

DRAWING: Bronze brooch with punched
decoration and traces of turquoise enamel
within the bezelr.

Figure 1. Bronze brooch with punched decoration and traces of turquoise enamel within the bezel. From Wickham Field, Otford.

The only aperture found in the walls was at the centre of the south wall. It was 20-inches wide and faced with ashlar. This may have been an entrance, but it had been used as a flue at some time as traces of burning and charcoal remain both inside and out.

Beneath this flue and its burnt layer was the remains of a burial in a Patch Grove urn without secondary vessels (Group 74). One other burial was found within the walls at the side opposite the entrance. This was in a Patch Grove urn and had also been disturbed.

The summer of 1967 was taken up largely with preparations for our very successful exhibition -- in connection with which Elizabeth Ward and Frank Cornett deserve special mention for their tireless exertions -- but some progress was made on the occupation-site after the corn was harvested. In October, however, agriculture again " moved us on " so we retired across the hedge to a piece of rough ground behind the Isolation Hospital. We opened a trench during the winter months 200 feet long by 4 feet wide which proved that the complex of rubbish-pits discovered in Wickham Field covers an area of at least 500 feet square. A few post-holes have been located, but their significance will not be known until further work has been completed.

Many small finds have been found in the pits associated with predominantly second-century sherds (including much Patch Grove ware) and many more have been picked up as surface scatter. A total of twenty five coins, ranging from 1st to 4th centuries AD have been recovered, including a bronze of CUNOBELIN and a Belgic speculum coin (Allen Class II). Two spoons and more than a dozen brooches have also been found (see Figure 1).

Obviously much remains to be done here, but we have temporarily deserted this wilderness for the more congenial surroundings of the Bull public-house in Otford -- thanks to the licensee who has made available for a short time an area in which medieval remains are said to have been discovered in the past. We look forward to quenching our thirst for knowledge in the coming weeks.

Other recent activities have included monthly instructional meetings, watching brief on gaspipe and other trenches and a jumble sale to raise funds for our ultimate objective -- a permanent headquarters on a suitable site.

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