1st April 2015: The Lyminge Dig

The final lecture in the Society's current programme took place on Wednesday 1st April when Dr Amanda Knox gave a spirited and well illustrated talk on The Lyminge Dig. Lyminge is a rare and important archaeological site where 1,300 years ago (7th-8th centuries AD) an Anglo-Saxon monastery stood. Excavations have been going on for a number of years led by archaeologists from the University of Reading including Dr Knox, together with local volunteers, archaeological societies and students. The results show that Lyminge's monastic phase was preceded by earlier Anglo-Saxon occupation stretching back into the 5th century AD.

Dr Knox started by giving contextual information that set the scene for the evening's talk. She then turned her attention to the early 'pagan' settlement, giving details of the types of structures that were found. These included sunken-featured buildings as well as wooden framed buildings with posts to support them (known as post-built structures) the most impressive of which is an enormous feasting hall, one of four halls on the site. It represents one of the most important Anglo-Saxon buildings yet excavated in Kent and belongs to a rare class of high status hall. Evidence of both iron smithing and smelting was also found and this could be the earliest iron working site of the Anglo-Saxon period in England. The material culture associated with this 'pagan' site is exceptional in terms of its range and quality, and includes luxury vessel glass, beads, dress pins, bone combs and a horse-harness mount. The finds indicate that a high status culture, perhaps a royal settlement, flourished in the 5th-6th centuries at Lyminge.

The monastic site of the 8th-9th centuries is set higher than the earlier settlement and boasts a large timber hall with an external 'metalled' yard. This was probably an agricultural building used as a threshing barn and/or for the storage of grain. In terms of industry there is evidence of more iron working as well as weaving (loom weights and spindle whorls were found) and fine metal working. Frankish pottery pieces indicate that Lyminge was looking towards the coast and an unusual quantity of fish bone was found along with evidence of domestic fowl and sheep and goats. This is unlike the earlier 'pagan' phase where quantities of pig remains were found.

Excavations at the Lyminge site have been ongoing since 2007 and there will be further limited work at the site during the summer of 2015. Anyone interested in volunteering or in simply finding out more about the project should log onto the Lyminge Archaeological Project website http://www.lymingearchaeology.org/.

Jenny Oram