The Neverending Story – an overview of finds from the project

When we started the excavations at the East Cliff we had no idea of the huge number of artefacts we were to uncover, as there had been at least 3 other digs in the area we expected most stuff to have already been removed.  On 1st August 2010 (a Monday as I recall) a bunch of volunteers arrived on site and spent the day cleaning, sanding and repainting the old car park attendants hut at the top of the field.  Tuesday morning the fencing arrived which was put up around an area north of the scheduled area (which just covered the villa area) because permission to dig it had not yet been ‘officially’ received from English Heritage, and digging started in the afternoon.  By Wednesday we had removed the grass sods and begun to dig 4 trenches and find remnants of the picnics of the 1920’s – 50’s visitors to the site; ceramics, kids toys (including a lead, painted toy soldier), the foundations of a tea kiosk and the pot washing began.  Then Thursday arrived and the excitement began in ernest; I found the very first sherd of Iron Age pottery (admittedly quite small) followed by an even larger piece behind me in the trench.  After lunch, in a different nearby trench, was unearthed one of the most amazing finds of the whole dig; three samian dishes, two almost complete, on one side of an ancient ditch with three quernstones on the other!  From then on, through 95 days in 2010 and 138 in 2011, not a day went past without at least 3 trays of finds delivered to my finds hut for processing!

Everything, except the 60 sacks of roof tiles washed later, were washed on site and by November 2011 they were residing at CAT’s stores at Dover docks.  An intrepid band of volunteers then began the, ongoing, process of organizing, sorting, marking, labelling, weighing, studying, registering and databasing the huge amount of finds dug up from less than 10% of the whole site.  Bearing in mind that an archaeological storage box is about the same size as one of those folding, multi-coloured, plastic storage boxes people normally use for moving house or storing kids toys in, this is what we have ended up with;

350 boxes of tiles

58 boxes of animal bone

46 boxes of pottery

5 boxes of amphorae

12 boxes of shell

10 boxes of flint

144 quernstones

3 boxes of stonework

4 boxes of metalwork

1 box daub

1 ½ boxes of glass

½  box of worked chalk

½ box of worked bone

½ box of painted plaster

1 box saltpan (large ceramic dishes with legs used to dry saltwater to make salt)

½ box fossils

½ box mosaic tesserae

7 boxes of floor tessarae

Over 100 coins

Over 1100 small finds

And multiple miscellaneous other artefacts……..

Many people have been involved in the work, all on a volunteer basis, and, as noted, we are still at it!  It needs to be finished before this summer as we will be back on site again but this time we know what to expect; huge amounts of amazing artefacts that cover 8,000 years of human occupation in our little corner of England.

Catherine Holtham-Oakley, Volunteer Finds Processing Supervisor

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