The Romano-British Villa and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Eccles, Kent

The site at Eccles in Kent was excavated on a shoestring from 1962 to 1976 by Alec Detsicas with the Lower Medway Archaeological Research Group and then the Eccles Excavation Committee. Lack of funding hampered post-excavation, and while Alec Detsicas tried to put publication plans in place before his death in 1999, these were largely in vain; we should be grateful to Nick Stoodley and Stephen Cosh for doing as much as they have with what was clearly a difficult archive.

Review by Sam Lucy.

This book has two main aims: to be a final publication for the post-Roman cemetery (now quite clearly dated to the mid-7th to the 9th or 10th century AD), and to highlight the astonishing nature of the Roman villa, its potential for further research, and the need for funding for its full analysis and publication. The villa is indeed remarkable: several phases with at least 133 rooms, culminating in a winged corridor layout over 86m long, successive elaborate bathhouses, and a style and complexity that has its closest parallels in Gaul. Much of the specialist work has yet to be completed, so what is presented here is a description of periods of construction, including annual interim reports produced by Alec. The book offers some revision of previous interpretations, but is very much an interim statement, pending further research.

The burials were focused on the dilapidated but still visible villa remains. Over 200 burials are catalogued, but with no grave plans drawn and few photos, site plans just indicate burial location and orientation. The grave catalogue was able to incorporate skeletal reporting and some recent palaeopathological analysis, and the fairly minimal grave-goods are fully reported. Nick Stoodley takes the opportunity to review the site in the context of early medieval burial in this part of Kent. The cemetery is unusual both for its longevity (the later phase of burial is confirmed by a radiocarbon date) and for an apparently high proportion of weapon injuries, which are the result of interpersonal conflict rather than indicating an execution cemetery. There are quibbles, of course, but for even producing a report with such a lack of funding, the authors (including contributors Jillian Hawkins and Courtnay Konshuh) are to be congratulated.

The Romano-British Villa and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Eccles, Kent, Nick Stoodley and Stephen R Cosh, Archaeopress, £45, ISBN 978-1789695878.