Archaeology is the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of physical remains.
The site of the town of Faversham and its surrounding countryside are exceedingly rich in archaeology and much of it is untouched by redevelopment.
Faversham lies between the head of a tidal creek and Watling Street, and has been there in one form or another for at least 2,000 years. Faversham has nearly 500 listed buildings, many of which are medieval with later facades, yet it is still a working, living town and the market mentioned in the Domesday Book still runs three days a week.
Probably two of the most famous archaeological finds in the Faversham area have been the Graveney Boat and Faversham Abbey.
The Graveney Boat was discovered in 1970, buried under two metres of soil, when improvement works were being undertaken to drainage channels in Graveney.
Faversham Abbey was dissolved in 1538. Subsequently most of it was demolished as part of Henry VIII's plans to sweep the monasteries from England. Excavations of the site have revealed that the church had a total length of 370ft; the long nave was flanked by north and south aisles in the usual manner and gave a total width of nearly 80ft.
Current excavations in the Faversham area include excavation of a Roman Building at Hog Brook near Faversham, excavation at Syndale, site of the roman town of Durolevum and Hunt the Saxons.
In May 2004 at a site located north of Canterbury Road, south-east of Faversham, excavations revealed two large 19th-century lime kilns, relating to the former use of the site as a chalk quarry.
Hunt the Saxons was a project to ascertain whether the Saxons occupied the Tanners Street/West Street area of Faversham.
After background research, the Saxon period (AD 410 to around AD 1000) emerged as the most enigmatic for Faversham.
An exceptionally rich Jutish (a Saxon tribe) cemetery had been uncovered and looted in south Faversham during the building of the railway in the 1860s, and there are documentary hints that the town had a clear identity during the rest of the first millennium.
Apart from a loom weight found on the post office site in the 1970s, there has been no confirmed archaeological evidence for Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area. Yet the 2003 Kent Historic Towns Survey by the Kent Archaeological Service designated a 'Saxon Zone' in the part of the town now occupied by Tanners Street and lower West Street.
Community Archaeology is easy to define - archaeology by the people for the people. It is empowered by the reality that within a locality there will be many people interested in and excited by the material evidence for the past which lies beneath their streets, houses, gardens, workplaces and is scattered across fields and woods.
Although fascinated by the discoveries of professional archaeologists, these people want passionately to be directly involved in the actual process of discovery themselves and in the research and imaginative reconstruction that flows from these discoveries
Faversham has many advantages for Community Archaeology. The town has a long tradition of volunteering and civic devotion.
The most relevant outcome of this for Community Archaeology is connection with the Faversham Society, an exceptionally active, energetic and inclusive voluntary organisation.
The Society provides archive storage space, documentary archives and library, a meeting hall, museum and exhibition gallery, a monthly newsletter and a publication avenue.
Most important of all, the Society provides a superb network for the many local people researching various aspects of the town's history. Without these great advantages, the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group (FSARG) would have had to address these practical issues from scratch.
For details of work undertaken, see FSARG at www.community-archaeology.org.uk
If you would like more information about archaeology in the Faversham area, please contact Dr Pat Reid of the Faversham Society Archaeological Research Group.