Congratulations to Keith Parfitt, Winner of Current Archaeology’s Rescue Dig of the Year 2013

Folkestone Roman villa archaeological excavation wins Current Archaeology Magazine award “Rescue Dig of the Year”

The excavations that took place at the site of the Roman Villa on East Cliff in 2010 and 2011 as part of the community archaeology project A Town Unearthed; Folkestone before 1500, have won the Current Archaeology magazine awards as the 2013 rescue dig of the year. The award is the result of an article written by Keith Parfitt of Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Thank you to all ATU supporters who voted for Keith’s article, Folkestone – Roman villa or Iron Age oppidum.

Though the Roman Villa, parts of which have already been lost to the sea, has always been considered the most important feature on East Cliff, it is now apparent that for about 100 years before the Romans arrives in AD 43, the site was occupied by a much larger settlement. Indeed this may have been the original site of Folkestone. With the discovery of hundreds of quern stones, used for grinding corn, at the site and on the beach, it is now evident that their manufacture  was a primary industry and, it has been tentatively suggested that, may even have given rise to the name of Folke Stone,

Keith Parfitt writes “The area occupied during the late Iron Age clearly extended well beyond the Roman villa and probably covers about two or three acres, in addition to whatever has been lost to the sea. On the basis of the quantity of coins, and range of imported pottery, we believe that East Wear Bay must have functioned as a late Iron Age trading port, located at the shortest sea crossing of the English Channel. The site has all the ingredients needed for such a facility – occupying a sheltered bay at the end of a long-distance prehistoric trackway, at the closest point to the Continent.”

The finds have included as Keith Parfitt writes “quantities of imported pottery from the Continent: terra nigra; terra rubra, butt beakers, and more importantly Dressel 1 amphorae. These big pre-Conquest wine containers come from Italy and seem to have been imported into Kent through East Wear Bay. From here they could be transported inland via the North Downs trackway (later known as the Pilgrims Way), which runs along the crest of the Downs just above the site. Then there are the Iron Age coins – more than one hundred are now known from the area.  Four came from Winbolt’s dig, another 49 from the recent excavations and more than 50 have been found at varying times on the beach below.”

Keith Parfitt continues “Taken together, it does not seem to be an exaggeration to cast East Wear Bay at Folkestone as the Kentish equivalent of the famous Hengistbury Head Iron Age trading port in Dorset. Indeed, in one regard East Wear Bay has a considerable advantage over its Dorset counterpart: the Channel crossing to Hengistbury is 70 odd miles from France – the Folkestone crossing is significantly shorter.”

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