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Antoinette - the Communicator

Having completed 6 months of the 50 year old ‘blog’ of Antoinette [Tony] Powell-Cotton’s archaeology field books, volunteers Vera & Trevor Gibbons continue into the winter months with some personal surprises!

With Tony’s perseverance during the first week of October one forgets that all the archaeology in Minnis Bay is under water at high tide. The following week, in her notes of a conference in Canterbury, sees Vera being ‘mentioned in dispatches’ !

By the end of the third week the lowest Spring tides allow Tony to investigate the Far Flats area at 7.00am!  This is the earliest known site at Minnis, Stone Age [Neolithic].

Saturday 2nd October

Took out cell 22 [of pit N] – collected 2 large sherds at least and another ‘lump’ i.e. which comes from beneath the wood lump –[i.e. 3 here now].  If possible I’d like  one more to the bottom here.  Lots of peaty material.  Left in a very messy state.  Lump down to about 2’3” mouldy looking chalk bottom end.  Tried to take soil sample but flints got in the way!

Sunday 3rd October

Alone – cleaned up east end of cell 22 a bit – some sherds, some very smashy, pottery, stalks and leafy bits not collected.  Put tin in under site of wood lump [coffee tin] had difficulty cos of flints with this third time lucky.  Lovely peaty sherds, snail, puffball – mice etc on left side below fawn more sticky fill about 1’0” down.  Left stake wrapped in plastic in hole beside wood lump.  All in tin together.

Monday 4th October

Collected a little more pot and part half lower jaw cow.  Some mouse bones – land snails and much bracken not collected.  2 pieces with stalks taken probably bracken too.  Below bracken peat of about 1’0” in depth is fawn more sticky fill.  Less bitty but where there are plants believe they are in rather better condition; 1 piece rim with 3 decent sized pot [sherds] – no scruffy bits.

Tuesday 5th October

Bought pump, stirrup type from Barretts and hose from Cart Farm something in Watling Street round bend towards Wincheap.  Parkers failed. Sailing equipment put away now could order another larger hose type pump but not in stock now.

  • [Barretts and Parkers were large Canterbury Stores.  A pump was an essential part of Tony’s equipment.  Each hole or pit had to be bailed or pumped out before excavation could begin].

Wednesday 6th October

Cleared out cell 16 in preparation for tomorrow with Dorothy and luck.

Thursday 7th October

Sides irregular, more or less perpendicular.  About 2’0” in depth.  Most of mud cleaned out to be looked through.[see next entry].  Collected part of coarse pot base I think, very leaky and 1 other sherd and a few scraps – pieces of wood wrapped in plastic and replaced in holes [for protection and later collection].  Photos of the 2 topmost – the lower horizontal one parallel to another on the promenade [south] side.  Noticed 1 ?burdock head – Fill fawn sticky most of the way down with a good deal of small chalk.  A few bones – rusty in the very corner – that piece of wood ? was pointed [worn now] end collected.  The other seemed flattened on the top side? the cut pointing it.  I broke it off the other end in baulk between this and the next cell.  Fill in the north side not cleaned down for last ? 6” at least.  Whole not properly cleared so wet and the daylight gone early.

Friday 8th October

Scratched in fill turned out of cell 16 yesterday: 1 sherd and a few scraps.  Picked most of the mud.

Saturday 9th October

Field Archaeology conference with Jennifer Hopkins, Lester, Mrs Roberts, Brian Philp, Mr. Coy  -  Frank Jenkins in the chair etc.

Speakers. 1. Penn – Springhead Temples

2. Bradshaw, Ashford group. L.B.A. [Late Bronze Age] barrow construction with 3 rows posts – dug in segments more interesting than trial trench through ditch.

3. Ginger and specks – Farmstead Darent R. Homestead valley, Otford – Sevenoakes – Patchgrove – Samian Belgic 60 – 100AD.  Detsicas Eccles 4 years.

4. Hogarth. Master. Temple Ewell – Dover Templars – tenants-etc.

5. Philp.  Roman Villa, Faversham 70-80AD.

6. ------- Orpington. Anglo-Saxon glass bracelet, inhumation and cremation 6 graves so far.  East Kent [south of Thames] Jutes and Surrey.

7. Jenkins. Wingham villa.  Viscount Haywarden.  Tony Clark resistivity meter – Anglo Fresian Eastry Ozengale – pre Hengist and Horsa about 400 AD.  ?Mercenaries allowed to settle.

Mr. Gough – wanted to introduce Mrs. Gibbons [Vera] – who designed the museum extension.

Left with Miss Conolly.

  • [In fact Vera was an assistant architect with the Margate architects Francis Shea & Partners when they designed gallery 7]

Thursday 14th October

Plan returned.  Plan of pits at Minnis general .  Photos colour – top timber and hard baulk 1/6665 [A Dorothy Brown photo number]

2. Pot lump ruler down in hole

Kit 35 f. 19447, [brother C.P-C photo] Redwood and Frugrain tin below pot lump and shaped piece wood well25 returned.

Friday 15th October

Francis Synge – geologist.

Write Biek re hard wood, 3 or 4 samples being recent – send sample overlying ‘sticky’.

Write Conolly with ?drawings overlying sticky for 5 & 6.  Philp address – Danish cigars – Alice Coleman, Francis Rae similar samples.

Write  Philp ?ever call at Leicester pollen and bones.  Mechanical aids.

Clare Lukehurst – Result Leicester visit.

Denise – Plans – reasons.

British Council

Deadnettle – intact leaves- monasteries etc. Kent near Wye

  • [Assume above is a ‘to do’ list.]

Cell 14 i.e. north of cell ?18 beside cell 16. H.B.=Hard baulk. Depth pit 10”-16”.

With Dorothy both tried photos but I think too dark.  This cell no water to bail now all spaces completely filled with sand again.

  • Tony’s Field Book 17 pages 60 and 61, as below, for October 1965

Monday 25th October

1st spring tide – down late ?7.30am or so, lovely weather. Collected 1 nice oval flint nearish wreck 20 paces centre W 1 big shinbone ends broken.

  • [The wreck referred to is that of the Hero wrecked in the bay in late 1800s, the remains of which can been seen at low tide today.  A point on the wreck was used as part of the Datum line laid in May 1939 by Roy Carr for future surveying purposes.]

Tuesday 26th October

Spring tide again – out about 7.00am.  Fair tide.  Oak peat patch just about uncovered.  To [the] far west of F & P [fence and post area]  - about 3” sticky to more or less ‘dry’ grey.  Depth of blue sticky from 3” to 3’0” or more.  The blue seems to blend into pink – here the blue bunga is bitty from the top few inches – mostly brownish I imagine wood, twigs etc.  Inside the curve of the split post fence – very bitty blue or more or less brown.

To the east side of F&P – FF [Far Flats] and the split post fence – near the post ‘island’ – brownish on blue [I think like oak peat in a minor way] collected bone – vertebrae; assorted: with 2 fat light coloured soft posts with 1 pace between them; several little sticks together here.  1 piece of black rim 1/3 from prom to wreck opposite slope beach end.  FF wood seems all to be soft. 1 stump or big branch ? post likely to be 0ak dug up in centre by outer part very soft – inner  blacker and harder.

  • Fence & Post area, distant red bucket left of centre is group of posts below.

Saturday 30th October

Added a little chalk to ‘N’ 4 hours before high tide.  Little water to the east side.  Wind westerly – collected 1 worn sherd in ?V area.  Leaf in sticky ‘grey’ fawn about 20 paces from N probably same type cover and also bit with beetles thrown up by worm diggers same spot.

Next  month  ……… winter storms limit Minnis Bay research on site, but increase the need to protect previous excavations, especially the work done to pit ‘N’ throughout the summer.

Antoinette Powell-Cotton (1913-1997) Debutante, nurse, midwife, African explorer, anthropologist and passionate local archaeologist, was the youngest daughter of Major Percy Powell-Cotton, of Quex Park, Birchington, Kent.




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