Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Old Bones Exposed

The Thanet Gazette reports that human bones may have been found by a dog-walker sticking out of the cliff at Westbrook. The police have removed these for further examination.

I have been over to have a look and can only find a single point of disturbed chalk, which looks as if this might have been close to the spot (see photos). I've also had a chat with my council colleague, the geologist, Dr Alasdair Bruce.

The photos show what looks like a horizontal two foot square alcove cut into the cliff face around half way up. The position is very close to the archaeological site of a roman villa, discovered and excavated on the ground above some 15 or more years ago. At that time, it was almost a mile from the sea.

This leaves me a little baffled, as a horizontal shaft would be much later than roman times I would have thought? Dr Bruce thinks it might also possibly be a beaker people burial from 3,000 years ago, like those found at Thanet Earth. We know that there was also a small community around that time in St Mildred's Bay and remains have occasionally been found at very low tide, in the mud of the freshwater spring, which runs out from under Old Boundary Rd. Minnis Bay also has some Iron Age archaeology of its own.

So it remains a mystery and I'm not 100% sure I have the right spot but the photos possibly show something. I wait to see what the police come-up with if anything because dating would be interesting if they prove to be human rather than animal.

Update: I've just been back to the site with geologists Dr Alasdair Bruce, his wife Kim Bruce and my daughter, Charlotte, presently reading archaeology at Canterbury.
The shaft remains a mystery but the recent weather has exposed what we believe may be the rubbish midden from the roman villa that once occupied the cliff top, 2,000 years ago.

We have removed several samples of oysters and pottery in situ, taking photos to preserve their provenance. Charlotte will be delivering these to the university archaeology department tomorrow for further examination and assessment.

We suspect the bones reportedly discovered earlier, may have come from the midden but until someone tells us more about this morning's find, the rest is conjecture.


Tony Ovenden said...

Could it be an old well ? It does look as if the items found are discarded.
I am helping with the Powell Cotton project at the moment looking for the sites Toni Powell Cotton dug during the 60's and 70's at Minnis Bay and they whole area is littered with well sites from Minnis to Epple.

Simon Moores said...

Appears to suggest a midden. Lots of compacted ancient shellfish layers in among the debris. Could have been a well used as a midden but then it's too high up the cliff