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Archaeologia Cantiana - Vol. 127   2007 page 249

The Long Demise of the Wantsum Sea Channel: a Recapitulation based on the Data.
By Dave Perkins

The long slow degradation of the Wantsum Channel, from the wide inundated valley and sea channel of prehistory, to its relic existence in the fourteenth century and today as muddy brook adjoining the Stour, was an enormously complex process. One of which much is still unknown, and one that would require a volume to properly explore. However, the broad framework of the process, both geographical and historical (at least from the Roman period) has been established, and set out in various contributions in the volumes of Archaeologia Cantiana.
   This being so, a recapitulation of the evidence would be unnecessary, except that by being presented piecemeal in a number of papers, with factual evidence sometimes accompanied by tendentious conjecture, a degree of confusion seems to have arisen. The writer here offers a concise guide to the data.
   A main cause of past confusion stemmed from an interpretation of the prehistoric configuration of the South Mouth of the Wantsum proffered by George Dowker (1897) which had currency until the 1940s (Fig. 1). Dowker rejected Ebbsfleet in Thanet as the landing place of Hengest and St Augustine. He believed that ancient tradition, and the account given by Bede and subsequent writers to be wrong in this attribution. The actual landing-place he thought to be Stonar, near Sandwich. His thesis was that the southern entrance to the Wantsum had been narrow almost since the formation of the English Channel, and situated at Stonar. Thus Ebbsfleet in Thanet would have been landlocked at the time of Augustine and could not be the landing site. His theory was based on three assertions:

- that during the initial filling of the English Channel the dominant tidal current ran southward through the Dover Strait from the North Sea, this process for some unknown reason reversing once the Channel had filled.
- that the southward current brought great quantities of eroded flints from the Thanet cliffs to form the Stonar Bank.
- that the Stonar Bank extended southward from Thanet as it was deposited.

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