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The Roman Pottery of Kent
by Dr Richard J. Pollard  -  Chapter 3  page 30
Doctoral thesis completed in 1982, published 1988

the archaeology of the first century B.C. is the lamentable shortage of sites with a long sequence of occupation, particularly in Kent, an area at the heart of the ‘Belgic controversy’.

II. THE POTTERY OF THE
                  ‘AYLESFORD-SWARLING CULTURE’

The passage in Caesar’s Gallic Wars (v, 12) recording the settlement of maritime areas of Britain by immigrants from the Belgic areas of Gaul in the century of his own subjugation of Gaul has been possibly the foundation for more speculation on the late Iron Age in Britain than any other ancient reference. The excavation of two cemeteries in Kent, at Aylesford (Evans 1890) and Swarling (Bushe-Fox 1925) provided type-sites for the study of ‘Belgic’ Britain, and the ‘Aylesford-Swarling Culture’ is entrenched in the literature (see Champion 1976, 10—17, for an historiography, and Cunliffe 1978, 83—93 for a summary of its elements).
   The pottery of the Aylesford-Swarling Culture has been the subject of intensive studies by a number of scholars, including doctoral theses in recent years by Thompson (1982) and Tyers (1981). The characteristics of the pottery are much less elusive than its chronology. Vessels are generally wheel-thrown, and evince a penchant for cordons, ‘corrugation’, and zones of combed or ‘furrowed’ decoration. Shapes may be angular or rounded, often with pedestal or foot-ring bases, and in some cases clearly derived from the fine platters, beakers, cups and flagons of Julio-Claudian northern Gaul (Figs. 14 and 15). The use of grog temper was extensive, though not universal, particularly in south-east Britain (Thompson 1982). Typological affinities with northern French material are strong, particularly between the assemblages of Kent and the Boulonnais, northern Artois and western Flanders (Tyers 1980, 1981).

Chronological studies have tended to look to associated, independently dateable objects, such as metalwork or imported fine pottery and amphorae, for the elucidation of a developmental sequence in the ‘Belgic’ pottery, either in burials or on stratified sites (e.g. Rodwell 1976a; Stead 1976; Birchall 1965). Opinions voiced in the early 1980s have held that such studies are premature (Tyers 1980; Thompson 1982, 3), though the desire to make sense of the tantalising evidence for dating the late pre-Roman Iron Age in south-east Britain is understandable. The databases for both funerary (e.g. Stead 1969; Thompson 1978) and domestic (e.g. Partridge 1981; Thompson 1982; Blockley and Day forthcoming) assemblages are expanding gradually, but it is still easier to criticise earlier attempts at chronology than it is to establish a new, more acceptable version (Pollard 1983a, 52—5).
   ‘Aylesford-Swarling’, or more appropriately ‘Belgic’ pottery (in the sense of a distinctive class of pottery, without political, economic or historical implications: Thompson 1982, 5), is, so far as the regions south of the Thames are concerned, primarily a feature of eastern Kentish sites. In Kent west of the Medway valley (except perhaps on the Thames flood plain), and in East Sussex, it is rare, and may be regarded as either intrusive or a product of a cross-fertilisation of ideas (Thompson 1982, 11—14; Green 1980; Pollard 1983a, 55—63).

III. POTTERY STYLE-ZONES IN 
                              LATE IRON AGE KENT

The dearth of ‘Aylesford-Swarling’ cemeteries west of the Medway valley — Stone-near Greenhithe (Cotton and Richardson 1941) is the sole known occurrence — may be an accident of

 

Page 30

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