The excavation

A Saxon seax, from a 7th or 8th century AD burial. A seax is a short sword with a single cutting edge.A Saxon seax, from a 7th or 8th century AD burial. A seax is a short sword with a single cutting edge. Springhead was an archaeologist’s dream: every day something new was found – coins, brooches, pottery, sometimes weapons or skeletons. Numbers alone tell a story: at least 60,000 tonnes of earth shifted; 150,000 artefacts discovered; finds ranging from 300,000 BC to AD1500; an excavation lasting more than two years; up to 30 staff digging at one time. This was Wessex Archaeology’s longest-running, most prolific and wide-ranging project.
 
It was a noisy dream, to be sure, as the site was next to the unstoppable juggernaut of A2 traffic between London and Canterbury. But the conditions could not dim the enthusiasm of the diggers who worked at the excavation.
 
Excavation of a Roman temple at Springhead with the busy A2 in the background.Excavation of a Roman temple at Springhead with the busy A2 in the background. Springhead was also notable for the unusual depth of the soil, four metres in places, on the site. Though this meant extra work when excavating, it also helped to preserve many of the finds from damage by ploughing.
 
The team were well supported: as well as Wessex’s own experts, external specialists from a number of different areas were involved, including soil scientists, pollen specialists, experts on the Roman period and prehistorians.
 
Rail Link Engineering (the consortium responsible for the design and project management of the rail link) had a full-time team of five archaeologists, all of whom were closely involved in the work. Regular monitoring meetings were held attended by representatives of English Heritage and Kent County Council as well as Wessex Archaeology and RLE.