Site of a Roman barrow with prehistoric origins discovered circa 1596 and excavated in 1844 and 1954. Finds include prehistoric pottery sherds, inhumations, cremations, amphorae, iron nails, a wooden and a lead coffin, a sella castrensis, a wooden bier and a Roman coin. The burials date from AD 200 to AD 250. The barrow has now been destroyed. 14 post holes forming a square enclosure around the barrow suggests a temporary shelter was erected over the grave.
TQ 6982 6269: Tumulus [NR] (1)
Holborough Knob - Roman barrow, 18 feet high and over 100 feet diameter. Surrounded by a ditch, 10-13 feet wide and 27 feet deep. A Mr Tylghman excavating (circa 1596) found "an earthen pot filled with ashes" (a) and Thomas Wright excavating in 1844 cut a trench through the centre of the mound and found a floor of fine earth with a thin coating of wood ash, some long nails, potsherds and a Roman brooch which was thought to be the site of a funeral pyre. Re-excavated 1954, barrow and ditch being completely excavated. Tile fragments, two sherds of prehistoric pottery and Roman potsherds came from the core of the barrow and obviously came from scrapings of the surrounding surface.
A piece of grey ware came from the bottom of the ditch and other fragments from the chalk filling.
In the central area of the barrow the main burial and 3 ritual pits were found undisturbed. A grave cut in the chalk had contained a simple wooden coffin, now decayed and measuring 6 feet 9 inches long but only 5 inches deep. Iron nails were still in situ. The coffin had contained many iron nails, wood ash, and calcined human bones. Above the burial was a domed mound of puddled chalk. Thus we have a cremation burial in an inhumation setting, suggesting a Christian approach to a pagan ceremonial. To the north of the grave was a mass of potsherds representing five amphorae, deliberately broken, a number of iron nails and fragments of glass, the whole firestained; deposits of a resinous substance suggested the residue of a libation of wine or oil. A square enclosure, 16 feet x 15 feet, consisting of 14 post holes, suggested a temporary hut or shelter over the grave. One of the ritual pits contained the remains of a folding chair (sella castrensis), iron nails, wood ash. The second pit contained wood ash, burnt potsherds and calcined bones. The third pit contained a Roman coin (of Antonius Pius), wood ash, fragments of a human cremation; and was suggested as the final "sweepings" from the funeral pyre. The coin, with funeral pyre on the obverse, was thought to be a ritual offering and of no use as dating evidence.
In the south east quadrant of the barrow was found a secondary burial consisting of the inhumation of a child in a decorated lead coffin. Included in the grave was the remains of what appeared to be a wooden bier. The pottery dates the barrow to the first quarter of the 3rd century and the secondary burial is placed in the first half of the 3rd century. [See AO/59/146/6-8] [Report includes a full study of the finds.] (2)
Report of earlier excavation. (3)
General article on Roman barrows, including Holborough. (4)
History of site and report of earlier excavations. (5)
Brief report. 1954 excavation. (6)
This barrow has now been completely quarried away. The Antiquity model has been amended. Finds on display at Maidstone Museum. (7)
At Holborough, the body may have been burnt in situ. Nothing of this kind is noted in other Roman cemeteries or graves in this region apart from Beckfoot (Bribra). (8)
Additional bibliography. (9-14)
( 1) Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 6" 1939
( 2a) William Lambarde; with an introduction by Richard Church 1970 A perambulation of Kent First published 1576 (W Lambarde) Page(s)407
( 2) Kent Archaeological Society Archaeologia Cantiana : being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent 1954 plans and illustrations (RF Jessup NC Cook and JMC Toynbee) 68 Page(s)1-61
( 3) Externally held archive reference Wanderings of an Antiquary 1854 183-9 (T Wright) Page(s)183-9
( 4) The Antiquary: a magazine devoted to the study of the past 1936 (GC Dunning and RF Jessup) 10 Page(s)37-53
( 5) Kent Archaeological Society Archaeologia Cantiana : being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent 1945 (RF Jessup) 58 Page(s)68-72
( 6) Society for Promotion of Roman Studies The journal of Roman studies 1954 illustrated 44 Page(s)101-2
( 7) Field Investigators Comments F1 CFW 30-JUN-1959
( 8) 1984 Archaeologia Aeliana, fifth series, volume XII. Arch Ael 5th series 12 1984 21 (DB Charlton and M Mitcheson)
( 9) Journal of the British Archaeological Association JBAA 3 1959 22 6 (RF Jessup)
(10) General reference JRS 44 1954 101-2 plan photo
(11) General reference SE England 1970 199 illust photo (RF Jessup)
(12) by Martin Henig 1984 Religion in Roman Britain Rel in Ro Brit 1984 202 photo (M Herrig)
(13) The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London Ant J 45 1965 22-52 (PJ Fowler)
(14) edited by William Page 1932 The Victoria history of the county of Kent, volume three The Victoria history of the counties of England VCH Kent 3 1932 168