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Teynham housing archeological dig uncovers Roman statue near A2, London Road

A Roman statue of the sea god Triton has been discovered on site near the A2 which is destined for homes.

Archaeologists have discovered artefacts, including a mausoleum which is to be buried within a roundabout, which are more than 1,700 years old during an investigative dig related to a new housing development close to London Road in Teynham.

The Roman statue of the sea god Triton
The Roman statue of the sea god Triton

The area, which is being built on by Moat Homes and Chartway Partnerships Group for its Frognal Lane development, follows the ancient Roman Watling Street and during an initial site evaluation, fragments of chalk wall foundations and Roman cremation burials were discovered.

As a result, Swale Council, with advice from Kent County Council Heritage Conservation, required a 0.5-hectare archaeological excavation at the site.

Taking place in May, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) was appointed to conduct the dig which revealed elements of a 30m square walled enclosure surrounding a c.7m square structure.

Further extraction works suggested the structure relates to a Roman mausoleum which contained a Roman coin dating back to c.320 to 330 AD.

The site also included Roman, and possibly later, burials with various grave goods.

The findings of the excavation in Teynham
The findings of the excavation in Teynham

However, the highlight of the findings was the discovery of a stone statue, representing the sea god Triton.

Conservative councillor for the area, Llyod Bowen, said: “Within Swale and specifically in Teynham we have a long history with the Roman empire and this discovery adds to the list.

“There is another site near Bax Farm (we understand) where there were remains of a villa were discovered years ago.

“This would suggest that the burial site discovered now is possibly connected to that.”

Since the excavation, weekly meetings with various stakeholders, including RPS (A Tetra Tech company) consultant, CAT, Chartway and KCC Heritage Conservation, have been held to review site progress, excavation methodology and the importance of the Roman discoveries.

Conservative councillor for Teynham, Lloyd Bowen. Picture: SBC
Conservative councillor for Teynham, Lloyd Bowen. Picture: SBC

The aim is to bury and retain these key remains within the landscaped centre of the roundabout, making it accessible for generations to come to enjoy the rich heritage discovered.

Steve Cresswell, group CEO at Chartway, said: “Chartway and Moat are delighted with this exciting discovery.

“We love the homes we deliver for communities across the South East and love to celebrate the rich local heritage. We are continuing to work with KCC Heritage Conservation, RPS, and CAT to ensure the key elements of the mausoleum and precinct walls are preserved.

“Plans are being drawn up to ensure the mausoleum can be preserved below protective layers within the landscaped centre of the roundabout and the precinct wall.

“We are committed to helping people connect to the places in which they live through the preservation of local heritage and the stories that surround it. We will be exploring ways in which these finds can be revealed to the public and enjoyed by everyone.

Land by Frognal Lane being prepared for the area's new homes. Picture: Megan Carr
Land by Frognal Lane being prepared for the area's new homes. Picture: Megan Carr

“We will also work with the archaeological teams and the local community, to create a plan for how the location of the mausoleum can be marked within the roundabout itself for generations to come.”

The Triton statue has been lifted and removed from the site for initial conservation works which have revealed the fascinating detail and craftmanship of the piece. Further research into the statue itself and the circumstances of its ritual burial are ongoing.

Dr Richard Hobbs, senior curator of Roman Britain, The British Museum commented: “This is a really stunning piece of sculpture, undoubtedly of great significance to our understanding of Roman Britain and its place in the wider Roman Empire.

“It shows a Triton – half man, half fish – riding a sea monster. Although a few other fragments of similar sculptures are known from Roman Britain, nothing quite like this has been discovered before.”

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