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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Temple at Springhead.
by W S Penn.

The temple area at Springhead is enclosed by a temenos wall, and the five temples so far discovered and excavated, with one exception, lie along the west side in order that their entrances may face East. The exception, Temple 5, with its four burials, is aligned roughly North-South, primarily so that it can back on to the Roman Watling Street and the temenos simultaneously. It is, perhaps, a shrine of the cross-roads.

It has always been assumed, from the evidence of crop-marks, trial-trenching and on general grounds, that no buildings would have disrupted the view of the temples, which were fronted by a gravelled courtyard. There were only two minor exceptions to this, the free-standing column a few yards in front of Temple 1 and the altar a few feet in front of Temple 2.

This assumption has been exploded during the past few weeks by the discovery of two steps leading from the temple forecourt to a higher level. It was natural at once to assume that was Temple 6, and a picture of the temples surrounding a central courtyard at once presented itself. This interpretation may still be correct, but there are certain features which are against it, and these are set below in the light of recent work.

Immediately behind the steps and parallel to them, is a 4-foot wide robber trench. The original wall would not have been this wide, but it was still probably thicker than the walls of any other temple, and those of Temple 3 were very substantial at 30 inches. Behind the robber trench was a solid flint floor, which has all the appearance of a well-made road. Thus, these two features suggested that the steps were part of a monumental gateway, leading from the road to the temple area.

It will be some considerable time before excavation is complete, so that no definite conclusions can yet be reached. Two theories can, however, be postulated from further features already exposed. These include another thick robber trench at right angles to the first one and projecting behind the steps (not an end wall, and without a matching feature on the other side of the steps); very deep foundations for the walls; what appears to be a rectangular tile-encased pier at the south-east end of the wall, a tiled base behind the stairs on a line through the centre of the stairs; and the flint floor of part of the structure, surfaced with rammed tile fragments.

The heavy foundations and the tiled pier suggest a very high free-standing wall. i.e. a gateway. It may be noted that the tiles are re-used roofing-tiles with the flanges turned outwards and with the mortar, which once cemented the imbrices in position, still in situ. The tiles must have been taken from another building nearby. The whole feature is very solidly cemented together.

The pounded tile floor and the tile base, on the other hand, suggest a temple. The tiled base certainly has the appearance of a cult-statue base such as was found in Temple 4. Again, the steps are only 5 feet wide, and one would have expected them to be much wider for the entrance to the temple area. After all, the steps (gradus) of Temple 2 were 11 feet wide.

Thus, we have an intriguing problem to solve, and it is hoped that further evidence will be available for the next report. However, there can be little doubt that we have either a monumental gateway or Temple 6. If the latter, then we are approaching the total of eight, postulated many years ago. If the central courtyard theory is correct, then there could easily be another temple on either side of the present building. This would give us the eight temples expected. It is a very promising situation indeed.

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