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‘By the Medway Marsh’ review

By 10/01/2023News

Thanks to Professor Neil Christie for this great review published in Medieval Archaeology Volume 66.2 (Dec 2022).

By the Medway Marsh by James Gerrard and Guy Seddon is available to purchase here

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A few kilometres north of Watling Street and close to the Roman town of Rochester in N Kent, excavations by Pre-Construct Archaeology at Grange Farm identified intriguing Romano-British activity, adding to older reported finds in the zone (including an early 5th-century coin hoard): earlier/mid-imperial earthen agricultural enclosures giving way in the 4th century to (cob-)walled enclosures, plus roadway, aisled hall, smithy and, peculiarly, a mausoleum. The latter (of cruciform shape over a squared base of c 6.5 x 6.3 m) held still a lead coffin (pp 65–70) containing an elderly female (landowner/patron?), while fragmentary materials pointed to other (lost) burials here. Potentially the mausoleum and coffin saw (new/renewed?) veneration after farming and industrial activity here ceased: a late 5th-century gilded silver Nydam-style brooch is suggested as a votive offering (pp 70–2), as perhaps were two 5th-/6th-century spearheads (72–3); while apparent demolition of the enclosure walls was perhaps to make the mausoleum more visible around. While one Anglo-Saxon sherd came from the redeposited late-Roman midden spread covering the demolition deposits, no settlement (or burial) activity for the 6th to 11th century occurs. The last remnants of the mausoleum appear robbed out in the 12th century for reuse in a nearby manorial complex (not investigated in the 2003–06 excavated, but related ditches, pits and a well were revealed). An unstratified openwork copper-alloy cross-staff terminal, meanwhile, suggests a chapel hereabouts when Bishop Odo, brother of King William I, held Grange Farm (pp 74–5). Noteworthy was the strong recovery of coins and metalwork finds – including badges, tools, dress-fittings – of Roman to early-modern date (mostly unstratified) thanks to onsite metal-detecting. A nicely produced and well-illustrated monograph, this publication benefits from its detailed, balanced end-discussion (Chapter 4) which integrates all finds types analysed in the specialist reports in Chapter 3 (including pollen from the coffin and evidence for a tawny owl roosting in the mausoleum ruins).

— NEIL CHRISTIE (University of Leicester)

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