Young Archaeologists Club

Canterbury Branch

Canterbury YAC meetings October 2018 - September 2019

Dec 292019


Thankfully the YAC’s were able to visit and get to help excavate Lees Court in September events outside of our control having caused disruption or last minute cancellation of our site visits in the previous three months.


The club members look forward to being able to visit sites and see actual archaeology in practice so they were desperate to actually get on site again. In August the storm the night before brought a tree down and caused other damage to trees on the site rendering it dangerous and our June site visit was similarly deemed unsafe for the YAC’s to visit in the week of the visit. Whilst in July only two made it to Sittingbourne to renew our acquaintance with HRGS whilst the rest spent the two hours going nowhere due to an accident on the motorway.

Upto Christmas 2018, we focused on the medieval period kicking off in October with joining CAT on their excavation to find the watercourse for Folkestone monastery and an informative talk and interaction between members with Andrew and Annie. This linked neatly into the next two meetings at the first of which using the collections at the Beeney members discussed and handled objects from day to day medieval life before looking at the history of stain glass windows and the imagery used at the December meeting.
After Christmas saw the members wearing surgical gloves to get to grips with environmental archaeology and changes in diet over time through the medium of dissecting artificial pooh to identify seeds, fruit pips, fish scales amongst others.

Andy Harmsworth then lead members and their parents in a warm sunny March morning on a thoroughly entertaining and informative 2 hour circular walk of the Canterbury Walls, pointing out the changes to the walls and why the changes had occurred over the years.

Whilst April saw the club based at St Mary of Charity Church in Faversham teaching members how to interpret a building and church and in particular examine closely the architecture to identify how it has been modified over the centuries . Several members have since commented on how they now look more closely at buildings they visit to spot doorways or windows that have been modified or blocked up.

The Trust for Thanet Archaeology were kind enough in spring to host a session for the club to allow members hands on access to the Trust’s store of considerable artefacts, to consider and discuss the purpose and types of pre-iron age tools as well as revisit the historical timeline.

Over the winter months we will again be mainly based at the Baptist Hall in Faversham with sessions on South American archaeology , facial reconstruction and first aid planned.

Selection of pre 2018 activities

Aug 312017

November 2017.

A brilliant session hosted by the Canterbury Archaeology Trust due to numbers we split into two groups. One group got their hands literally dirty and wet washing finds from a Roman settlement in Dover. Learning the correct technique and the need to ensure labelling followed the artefact . We found Roman items through to Victorian showing the length of continuous settlement on the site, including clay pipe stems, pottery, glass bottles and what when cleaned turned out to be possibly one-half of a mould. All would have liked to spend more time cleaning and trying to piece together the various bits of the same pottery and bottle we found, but we had to swop with the other group for the second ha;f of the meeting.

The other half were meanwhile sifting soil with tweezers ,separating out fish bones ( masses of tiny fish vertebrae found), chicken and other small animal bones, shells, wood and slate and charcoal flakes. Understanding how this helps understand what people lived on and what can find that might miss at first sight.

Realised how long and time consuming both processes are -but enjoyable at least for us .


We looked at the variety of archaeological features to be found on the coasts of Britain and beneath the sea and the extra difficulties encountered in uncovering and recording them caused by the sea and tides.

We also considered the number of wrecks on the Goodwin Sands from the Dover Boat, through the Roman invasion upto the second war .


We revisited the Roman farmstead site at Faversham where we were able to dig last year to spend the morning joining the Kent Archaeological Field School uncovering the foundations of the substantial barn, Plenty of Roman finds uncovered including shards of pottery, bone and glass.


Chance to dig !

15 of us visited the CAT site at Folkestone. We were slightly held up as they were taking aerial photos by drone and this drowned out Isobel's introduction to what we could see and had been found so far. We then waved as it took a photo of us .

We then split into 2 groups as too many of us to dig at once.

My group went down onto the beach at the bottom of the cliffs to see if we could find anything that may have been washed down, though we found bottom of cliff was a lot further out than top of the cliff. we found some post 1900 peices of pottery and tile - appears in WW2 they just dumped a whole lot of bomb destruction rubble over the cliff/onto the beach.

The other group dug and we then switched over for second half - ground was hard (apparently ) not quite as hard as last year. Most of us picked up the technique for trowelling and managed quite well -though slow going. We mainly found bone. Tantalising the interesting bones and bits seemed to be in the layer we uncovered ready for the archaeologists to excavate during the following week.

Look forward to November when we will be doing find cleansing and maybe get to find out what was uncovered.


Leaders got us ready for the summer digs. Isobel gave us a talk about the site Canterbury Archaeology Trust had been excavating at Wear bay in folkestone in previous years and we saw a short video of the Roman villa adjacaent to the area being excavted this year and the iron age house found last year.

Martha and Isobel then talked us through what happens on a site and what we could expect to see and do and what tools.

Martha then tried to teach us stratigraphy - how can idenitfy different layers and sequences of use over time of a site. Most of us just more interested in the promise we could eat the cake once Martha had cut the 'ditch' filled it back up with chocolate cake and 'eible gold decorative cake balls ' to represent finds then sunk post hole it in and filled that up. cake was nice.

Peter then got saddled with the helath and safety briefing - but tried to make it fun with a mix and match game -try matching the risk to the preventative measures.

May . We got to look at graves and skeletons .Thanks to Marion Green of Canterbury Archaeological Trust for laying on a really good entertaining and gripping session on interpreting graves and skeletons. With help from Isobel "the bone specilaist" at the trust as well as being our Asst. leader we got to handle some real bones. Marion lead us through a series of slides requiring us to indicate what we could see buried with the skeletons ( actual graves found by the Trust) and how that could help us decide age and sex of person buried and clues as to what they did. Everyone really found interesting the apparent family found buried together inside Canterbury with their dog , this lead to lively discussion as who they might have been and why they died, ended comparing our views with the summary of the various expert reports .

We finished by taking turns ( if small enough) in being laid out in the manner of the Anglo-Saxon warrior(?) found.

At the April meeting we got to investigate a 1861 map of Faversham area to locate potential historical sites and compare it with a modern day map.We discussed what had changed and what old maps and other documents can tell us.

We also looked at old maps of Canterbury going back to the 17th century and earlier to discuss how the layout had changed. Along with other documents archaeologists had used to identify the site of the Whitefriars monastery and help them understand what they found when they excavated that site.


March we were given a tour of the archives in Canterbury cathedral by the staff and then a guided tour looking at the history of the site.

February 2017 we looked at the procedure for Mummifying and pyramids.

In the course of which we mummified oranges and filled them with virtually the same mix of salt and sodium bi-carbonate they used in Egypt . To be resurrected at the May meeting to see how they have shrivelled and dried up and to discuss the effect of different temperatures/places on preservation.

January 2017

Peter had us working out our maths in practising the skills archaeologists use . Three activities in turn, using rim charts to work out from just part of the rim the diameter of the actual pot, then onto measuring your hand and stride and checking the  accurate of those measurements against tape measurements. Finished with preparing a timeline setting which order time periods came in and actual dates, with brief information as to events in Kent and highlights of each period  to help us understand time periods and exactly how little time compared to overall has passed since the Norman invasion.

Finished with Peter finally unveiling why he had us in November count the steps down from the current Canterbury road level to the level of the Roman road and using the depth of the step to work out the total depth. Talking about why the depth so large in Canterbury compared to the artefacts being only about 2 ft below the current level at the Faversham villa we dug on last summer. 

 December 2016

We visited Dover Museum to look at the Dover Boat the oldest boat found in Europe from about 1300 BC. We discussed how it was constructed , and what goods it would have transported to and from Europe. Also the replica version built in part by Canterbury Archaeological Trust and the information learnt form such replicas. 

November 2016

We were offered rare opportunity by lecturer at Kent University to handle actual Roman coins, glass , pottery and discuss other day to day objects in the Roman Museum at Canterbury . Dr Swift explained the need for us to always use cotton gloves to handle artefacts and how identify the coins and different types of pottery. We also were able to look around the museum and discuss the artefacts and Roman pavement with the help of Isobel,Martha and an archaeological  student.

October 2016

We gathered together on a bleak road at St Margaret's on the cliffs by Dover. Vince a flint expert who had been examining the area and neolithic life there for over 20 years talked to us about the widespread flint tools he had found in the area and what to look for, before we spread out over the adjoining fields to see what we could find. We then met up again after an hour for Vince to explain what everyone had in their bags. Most found it difficult to recognise worked flint from natural effect of wearing and ploughing  (especially the parents !), but quite a few  found some interesting flints, which we were allowed to take home. 

September 2016

We visited the Roman villa below Dover to explore the ruins and how Dover would have looked in roman times. tried our hands at Roman games and what life was like in those times. 

September saw the club visiting the Roman Painted House in Dover. Whilst in October members will be metal detecting and in November there will be an artefact handling session.

August Meeting- Digging on Roman villa/farmstead 

Kent Archaeological Field school kindly invited us to join them for the morning and have chance to dig on the site of a roman villa/farmstead at Faversham.

A tour of the site and surrounding existing farm was lead by the director of the field school during which he told us why the farm would have been built there , why farming remained important on the site upto modern day, why find other villas scattered along that area of Kent associated with the springs. Dr Wilkinson then explained the plans drawn up of the excavations over previous years and where the walls lay under our feet.  

We then looked at the finds trays and were able to handle some of the coins and other small items dug up this year.

Then we were able to get down to dig with the new members scattered amongst those who had experience to guide them. We all found items, Peter (the branch leader ) found the rim of an medieval or Roman domestic pot, others found animal bones and glass .

To say goodbye as they are off to university to study archaeology and ancient history respectively Lynda and Ellie, brought cream cake and pop for everyone to eat on site. 

30 July 2016 Digging on Iron Age site on Folkestone Cliffs.

A not so sunny morning saw us on the cliff top above Folkestone getting a chance to dig on Iron Age site thanks to Canterbury Archaeological Trust. Andrew from the Trust explained the significance of the site and the surrounding cliff area including the adjacent now reburied Roman Villa excavation, which Lynda (then a YAC and now an Asst. leader) had  the chance to dig on with the YAC's in 2011/12. Amazed at the number of quern stones (over 200) found on the site and the broken quern stones just laying around where they had broken during manufacturing. The size of the round house whose ditch had been excavated surprised us.  I think we all thought from pictures they were a lot smaller. Felt like we were on one of the earliest factory sites and imagined what must of felt like taking all those hours to carve the stones only for it to crack when drilling the hole through the middle.

Most of the 10 YAC's had never been on a dig before so we were given an initial tutorial as to how to trowel from Andrew from the trust and Isobel one of our new assistant leaders, who had been working on the site in glorious sunshine for the previous 2 weeks . We then got down to dig under the guidance of Isobel , Andrew, Peter and the other leaders. Unfortunate that the hot weather had baked the top soil and even with using the sprayer to wet it, it was hard work. Whilst none of us individually found much by end of the session Isobel and Andrew were able to show us we had in in our finds tray, iron age pottery, shells, possible worked flint, animal bone which had been scrapped to get the meat off and bones and teeth showing what they had been eating. Andrew then showed us the complete domesticated wolf's skull they had found carefully buried in the ditch of the roundhouse in the Iron age-cool!!



June 2016 Meeting

Learning basics of using scale drawings and photographs to record upstanding features under guidance of Mark Williams and his colleagues from Wessex Archaeology. Using historic church at Great Monegham as our model we first used a quiz sheet to find out and record information about the church and unusual features. We then split into two groups . One group learnt about why accurate plans are important and practised preparing scale plans of the alter area using the same techniques used on site. The other group were taught how to use a camera on a tripod to take photo's , Learning about what photo's you would want to record the various features of the outside of church. Also hands on experience of the need and process of levelling the tripod and angling the camera securely (LEADER NOTE & LEARN please!). Also how and what scale measure to include in photo to make it useful for recording. We them swooped activities for the remainder of the time.

May 2016

Warm sunny Sunday morning saw us doing hands on conservation work at the Napoleonic Fort above Dover . Always fun getting into the site stooping through the tunnel leading through the outer mound into the dry moat with the fort towering over 40 ft above us . Whilst the leaders and parents shifted bricks pout of the officers quarters to make them accessible for visitors the rest of us de-weeded and cleared out a temporary magazine that was originally used to store the gunpowder and shells for the gun placements on either side when they might be used and then replenished from the main gunpowder store. Unlike our last visit we did not find anything but fun had by all and we got to use our new equipment. Good tour of the site by the appreciative volunteers and found out about the mascot the soldiers stationed there in the 1850's used to take for walks through Dover-it was lion!

April 2016

Peter gave us an informative talk -mainly whilst trying not to step backwards of the top of a windy Dene John mount, on the effect on the Norman invasion on Canterbury. Made us think about what actual change meant to day to day life and the architecture in towns. The fact that castles did not exist before then, that within 25 years of the invasion there were over 250 and what physically was involved in building them. Then finished the meeting with a tour of the exhibition of 25 years of Canterbury Archaeological Trust at the Museum with members of the trust.

March 2016

Club members had a escorted tour of the Oare gunpowder factory site where gunpowder had been produced for over 150 years prior to WWII. Volunteers gave an interested tour explaining what each building had been used for. Designed with thick walls and thin roofs so the explosion when things went wrong went straight up and the owners could re-roof and easily bring the building back into use.


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