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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Roman Burial at Hotfield, near Ashford.
by John Gaunt.

In June, 1974 a phone call was received from Mr Douglas Burke of Chartham village concerning pottery which had been found in the course of his work. He reported that whilst excavating a trench for a sewage pipe-line at Hothfield, in mid-Kent, his JCB digging machine had cut through a feature containing pottery which he thought might be of archaeological interest.

Having dealt with Mr Burke on previous occasions and knowing that his information would be reliable, it was arranged for the pottery to be collected and examined that same evening. From a quick examination of the find spot together with the type of pottery found I was able to establish that the pottery formed part of a group which had come from a shallow burial cut into natural brickearth. The burial pit was U-shaped in section (width 30 centimetres) and the remaining known depth only about 45 centimetres. The fill of the pit was disturbed brickearth and flints. The feature was sealed by about 20 centimetres of disturbed plough-soil and turf.

The pottery had been arranged in a tight group standing in an upright position and consisted of the following which have been kindly examined and described by Mr Brian Philp:

  1. Small 'poppy-head' beaker of grey ware with blue-grey slip. Decorated with rectangular panels of applied studs and thickened cordon at neck. 1st half 2nd century AD.
  2. Small burnished beaker of buff-grey ware with orange-brown surface. Rim missing. 1st half of 2nd century AD.
  3. Storage jar of soft ware broadly similar to Patch Grove vessels found in West Kent. Mottled grey-black core and buff-brown surface. Narrow chevron stabbed pattern on shoulder, broad cordon on neck and arbitrary diagonal combed pattern on upper half. The somewhat flattened profile suggests, in the absence of the rim, that this vessel is a 2nd century version of the more bulbous and squatter 1st century prototypes. A date in the 1st half of the second century seems probable.
  4. Shallow bowl of samian ware Form 18/31. Worn foot ring. Centre base deliberately perforated from underside and showing score marks at edges of irregular perforation. Stamp illegible (possibly T O . . .) AD 140-160.

Mr Philp also says: 'It is clear from the evidence recorded by Mr Gaunt that these four vessels formed part of a single cremation burial. The large storage jar was almost certainly the cinerary urn though any contents had been dislodged on discovery. The 'poppy-head' beaker probably represented the cup in the grave and may originally have held a liquid. The samian bowl probably held a food-offering and thus all the basic ingredients of a small cremation group are represented. All the vessels appear to date to the 1st half of the 2nd century AD and the probability is that a corresponding occupation site, perhaps a farmstead, awaits discovery nearby.'

No other items were found on the site which was very small and the contractor's work was soon completed.

This report shows the value of contact with digger drivers who, by the very nature of their work, often become involved in archaeological discoveries. Many such discoveries unfortunately pass both unrecognised and unrecorded and it is only when people such as Mr Burke are willing to pass their observations on to an archaeologist that another paragraph can be added to our history.

PHOTO: The second century cremation group found at Hothfield.

The second century cremation group found at Hothfield. Drawn by Jim Williams.

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