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Dartford & District Archaeological Group (DDAG)   -    Rediscovering Dartford - Page 15

This bowl was fragmentary and was not recorded ‘in situ’. It has subsequently disappeared. Another plain bowl of generally similar shape was recovered from the Highdown Hill Saxon cemetery in Sussex.
   It is well known that this part of Kent supported Christianity in the late Roman period as is witnessed by the Chi-Rho monogram in the Christian chapel at Lullingstone Roman Villa and part of a Chi-Rho monogram on painted plaster from a villa at Otford. It would not he illogical to assume that Christianity survived and was passed on by the Romanised British.
   The importance of this glass bowl found in its undisturbed context cannot therefore be over-stressed and its survival intact under only a few inches of soil is indeed remarkable. As a result of the Group’s report to the Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments the suspected extent of this Anglo-Saxon cemetery was later scheduled as an Ancient Monument.
   The inscription on the bowl has prompted various experts to try to resolve its meaning. The first attempt at this was by Dr. E. J. Heap in the Kent Archaeological Review No. 54, (1978). Dr. Heap took the abbreviated ‘dog’ Latin and expanded it to the following:— Starting with the letter "R" near the top of the drawing of the inscription REX INVICTE VITA IN TE ET VIA SALUTIS REDEMVTIONIS VERITAS VERIFICATIA IN DEl VERBO. Translated this means 0 King Invincible Eternal Life is in Thee and the Way of Salvation and Redemption the Very Truth of the Word of God.
   A second attempt was made by Mrs. L. E. Webster, BA., FSA.. Dr. D. Harden and Dr. M. Hassall in ‘The Antiquaries Journal, 1980’. As before the Latin was expanded hut with on this occasion a different result:
   Starting with the letter ‘D" on the left of the same drawing DE IURI VITA IN TE ET VIA S(ANCTE) RUVIN (E/A) Translated it reads ‘justly (eternal) life and the way (are found) in your Saint Rufinus/a’. The saint referred to in this version was from Soissons and was martyred along with a fellow saint called Valerius. If this identification is correct then the authors of this version suggest that there may well have been another bowl produced similar to the Darenth Bowl but dedicated to Saint Valerius.

The possibility remains however, that neither translation is correct and that ample scope is left for fresh thought and investigation.
  An extension to the north of Grave 4 was then opened to ascertain whether post holes or other features were in the near vicinity and as a result Grave 5 was discovered. This grave was cut more deeply into the chalk and showed little or no plough damage. The grave was aligned approximately north-south (bearing 20°) and contained two skeletons super-imposed.
   The upper skeleton was a youth of about sixteen years of age and its hunched position gave the appearance of a hurried and unceremonial burial. The skull appeared to have been fractured in antiquity and could indicate a violent death. The bones indicate no disease, A small iron knife was found near the left hip.
   The lower skeleton was of an adult male, with a crushed rib cage (no doubt caused by the later top burial) and the skull was missing. A small iron knife was found adjacent to the right hip.
   A postscript to our investigation occurred in July 1981 when a fuel pipeline was laid across this scheduled site. In view of the earlier important finds the Department of the Environment sent a team, headed by David Batchelor of the Central Excavation Unit to carry out excavations ahead of the pipe laying.
   The results of their work revealed a further seven graves comprising three adult burials, a double burial, a child and two infant burials. A variety of grave goods were recovered including necklaces of glass beads, pendants and brooches.
   Apart from the graves, the post holes of several four post structures were revealed together with hundreds of stake holes, unfortunately without associated dateable finds. Members of the Group were struck by the similarity of these structures to those excavated with the Fawkham and Ash Archaeological Group at a site near Longfield which were finally dated to the middle/late Iron Age.
   The Central Excavation Unit re-located graves 4 and 5 hut Grave 4 was virtually completely ploughed out. Had we left our excavations one or two years longer there would have been no complete Darenth Bowl, and Dartford Borough Museum would not have on display this unique and beautiful object.

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