There are plenty of ways to get involved with the history and archaeology of Kent. Why not visit a museum or join an archaeological society?
Many Portable Antiquities Scheme finds can be seen on display at museums around the county (see the links below).
Ashford Museum is run by the Ashford Borough Museum Society, who are all volunteers. It has displays on local palaeontology, archaeology and social history, including Ashford’s medieval market, the history of the railway, hospitals and local businesses, and military history.
This curiously named museum is the city museum for Canterbury and contains art, archaeology, a library and the Buffs regimental museum. Notable PAS-recorded finds in the museum include a Roman balsamarium (KENT-7D72A7) and a large early Anglo-Saxon belt-buckle decorated with a fish (KENT-50B745). The photo on the PAS record of the fish-buckle does not do this amazing object justice; you must go and see it in the museum!
As the name suggests, this museum celebrates Roman Canterbury – or, as the Romans called it, Durovernum Cantiacorum. The museum offers a rare opportunity to see mosaics just as they were laid nearly 2,000 years ago. It is full of fascinating objects, including a stunning late Iron Age helmet (KENT-FA8E56) found with the cremated remains of a woman.
Established in 1858, and with more than 600,000 artefacts and specimens, Maidstone Museum represents one of the best and largest collections in the south-east outside of London. It’s been described as “a small Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, and Natural History Museum rolled into one” and it certainly has a fine archaeological collection, with over 11,000 finds. Recent acquisitions include the Boughton Malherbe hoard of 352 objects (KENT-15A293), the third largest Bronze Age hoard ever found in Britain.
Anglo-Saxon Kent is famous for its opulent jewellery made with gold, silver and garnets, and many pieces are on display in Maidstone Museum. A tiny fragment of 7th-century Anglo-Saxon gold (KENT-AC1CE6), showing interlacing garnet-inlaid snakes, is one of the very few pieces of garnet interlace outside the Sutton Hoo treasure and the Staffordshire Hoard. KENT-3AC1C5 is a fragment of sword pommel and KENT-344345 is a bit of S-shaped brooch. Both epitomise the 6th-century Kentish style of gilded silver inlaid with tiny triangles of black niello. These objects may be tiny, but they show us how rich and well-connected the Kent aristocracy was in the heyday of their small kingdom.
Societies & Organisations
Kent is full of fascinating archaeology – and has a huge number of archaeological societies. Here is a small selection.
Kent Archaeological Society is the oldest and largest society devoted to the history and archaeology of the county of Kent.
KAS have a very useful page of links to nearly thirty other Kent heritage organisations on their website – click here.
This society meets monthly for lectures, and organises visits and themed study days. It also publishes a newsletter.
Bexley Archaeology Group is a practical group who run weekend fieldwork and workshops, and summer training excavations, as well as evening lectures. They also run Bexley Young Archaeologists Club (see below for more details).
Focusing on Canterbury, this society runs lectures and excursions, and also has an excellent website with further resources. It encourages members to carry out their own research with small grants for expenses.
IOTAS organises monthly lectures and field trips, and also carries out its own geophysics and excavation projects. It has a library and provides a newsletter.
MAAG is a practical group concentrating on fieldwork and publication. They also organise talks and outings.
ODAS was set up in 1975 and has always had a strong fieldwork focus, undertaking excavations and landscape surveys. It also opens excavated sites (such as Orpington Roman Bathhouse) to the public. The usual monthly lectures are held, and the society also has a long-distance weekend field trip every year.
Founded in 2009, WKAS is a practical group that concentrates on geophysics, fieldwalking and small-scale excavation, mainly in the Darent Valley. They work with the West Kent Detector Club and the South-East London Metal-Detecting Club to carry out metal-detecting surveys.
Kent History Federation compiles a joint calendar of events and contact details for around 120 other societies. It provides a useful link for both independent researchers and the various historical and archaeological societies in the county, and publishes its own quarterly journal. There are lots of other resources on its website, including a list of museums and archives and record centres in Kent.
The Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) is the youth branch of the Council for British Archaeology. YAC operates across the country with local groups of young enthusiasts. In Kent there are branches in Bexley, Maidstone and Canterbury.