|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
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
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.