Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne

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Anglo-Saxon CSI: Conservation Science Investigation

Thank you for visiting the Anglo-Saxon CSI blog. The blog will be progressing in line with the conservation work of the project. Please feel free to leave comments, or ask our volunteer conservation assistants any questions about the work.

Anglo-Saxon CSI: Sittingbourne is an investigative conservation lab working on finds from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery site from Sittingbourne, Kent.  It is a unique community led, public heritage conservation project.  It allows public access to the conservation techniques involved in treating objects from an archaeological dig. The project has been a local initiative involving Sittingbourne-based conservator, Dana Goodburn-Brown, combined with the support of local professionals, history enthusiasts and the wider community.

If you want to visit the lab and archaeological exhibition we are located in The Forum shopping precinct in Sittingbourne, Kent.  Do make the most of this project whilst you can and if you can help out and show support in any way at all then it would be greatly appreciated.  Please have a look at the rest of this site to see what we have found and how we are progressing with the work.

The CSI: lab exhibition has been dedicated to the memory of Jon Norton.  Jon was a local resident of Sittingbourne who sadly passed away in 2009.  He was a journalist, artist and husband of the late Mo Mowlem.

The lab will only be opening on Friday and Saturday for the forseeable future.  This will be the case for November, but hopefully no longer.  We’ll let you know when things are back to normal and we apologise for anyone hoping to visit.

43 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i think the mystery saxon find shown on the one show might be the front piece of a shield ?

Comment by robert edwardes

I really hope that you will have another family-oriented open day, maybe during the summer holidays, with reenactors and with hands-on projects (both re-creating crafts like weaving, and archeology skills).

If it is not a shield boss, as already suggested, I wonder if your mystery object might have been a mirror or reflector — signalling mirrors have a hole in the middle to help aim the signal flash. for example.

Comment by Kristin Julier

Eh-eh, I know what it is!

Comment by Mario Gatto

Of course I’m going to tell you
but at least I want a beer!

Comment by Mario Gatto

from Kent to Lombardy
more than 2000 km,
too long a drive to bring a beer!
So I will be happy with a PROMISE of a beer.
Last offer.

Comment by Mario Gatto

Mmmm… I see, lack of British humor.
British got Brutish?
I hope not!
Anyway, sunday evening I will tell you
what that thing is.

Comment by Mario Gatto

A sketch in a manuscript of the XIV century
seen last week, was a great help to understand
what that thing is.

Comment by Mario Gatto

It’s the hilt
of a four string whip.
A <> in Latin.
Next question?

Comment by Mario Gatto

I wanted to say a “flagellum”,
a three string whip,
the central hole for to fix it to the handle.

Comment by Mario Gatto

That’s super Mario (groan :)). Thanks very much for taking the time to comment and for visiting so regularly. If you have the chance come in and see what we have been working on if you haven’t already. 🙂

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

I will send to you a photo of the sketch.

Comment by Mario Gatto


Thanks very much for posting the picture and a copy of the article all the way from Italy. It’s really appreciated and was quite a surprise when we got it. You have a rather nice postage stamp too.

thanks again and you will be welcome if ever you drop by!

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

I dont agree with volunteers carying out conservation, anymore than volunteers working as dentists. Conservation is very specialised and attempts to make it more accessable to the public in this way, undermines the profession and puts archaeological objects at risk.

Just more media dumbing down of archaeology in an attempt to make money.

Comment by Philip Kevin

I can understand your concerns, but the volunteers are constantly supervised by professional conservators and the objects are at no more risk than if they were in the hands of professionals. They are able to ask questions and voice concerns whenever they are unsure of anything. I think the discoveries made by the volunteers have been brilliant and the images from SEM of the minute structures of organic materials, for example, are testament to their work.

You should ask yourself also whether these objects are at more risk in the hands of cautious and careful volunteers or in uncontrolled storage environments where irreversible damage and loss of information will no doubt occur over time. The volunteers have worked on hundreds of objects over the past year whereas only a handful may have been chosen for conservation otherwise. Hopefully this approach, more than others perhaps, will provide a much more thorough understanding of the site than would otherwise have been possible.

Furthermore, I don’t think it undermines the profession at all but instead provides a public basis where it can be presented to people that might otherwise have no idea what we do as professionals and what can be learnt from the process. It might inspire people to pursue it as a career and the possibility of similar projects elsewhere may provide more jobs for conservators wishing to carry out similar projects.

Finally, in no way is CSI: Sittingbourne out to make money. Lack of funding from developers led to this alternative whereby a great deal of money could be saved as well as presenting what is an important archaeological site in the area. The project has filled shops in the town that would otherwise be empty and the whole project has educated people of all ages and from all walks of life. The public are welcome to make donations and have been generous in this, but this is a small amount overall. Entry is free (why not come along…) and there have been a number of free and educational events over the past year. We are actually seeking funding to continue the project for at least another 6 six months, and Tesco (the owners of the Forum) have kindly extended the free lease etc. This, combined with the media coverage, must show the success of the project as a whole and I hope I have enlightened you a bit. Thanks for your comment – it is nice to have someones opinion on the project and a little bit of a debate finally!

Starting on BBC 2 is Dr. Alice Roberts’ new programme about a year in British archaeology, “Digging for Britain”. CSI: Sittingbourne will be featured on the 7th September I do believe so this is worth watching to find out more.

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

I think the idea of involving the public in archaeological conservation and archaeology is well meant and it is good to see the profession being more accessable to the public. However archaeological conservation is skilled work largely carried out under magnification (microscope) and as such cannot be adequately supervised, furthermore an in-depth knowledge of material science and chemistry is necessary.

I am sure there are many areas that volunteers can assist Conservators . Using volunteers to bolster archaeological conservation because of a “lack of funding” is not good enough.
The state of archaeological archives are a seperate issue, future care of the archive should be part of the initial planning, not part of some rescue mission by unqualified volunteers.

Comment by Philip Kevin

I beg to differ. The volunteers are trained by qualified conservators on donated deaccessioned objects with no context. During this time they are supervised and shown how to use the microscope and handle the scalpel. There are only upto four people working at a time so between one or two supervisors there is more than enough supervision. As I said before, they can ask questions and get opinions. They work methodically and have always been extremely cautious. If a volunteer is really not suited to the work then alternative jobs may be found or they will leave.

I won’t say that an in-depth knowledge of material science and chemistry is not required within conservation, but for this type of work being able to recognise structures and colours in the soil helps a lot more. Understanding the complete scientific process of corrosion, for example, is not essential for the volunteers. They have enough of an understanding to know how mineralised organics are formed and how iron changes in the burial environment, which is perfectly adequate for the work they are doing. The volunteers are carrying out mechanical cleaning and air-abrasion. Any further treatments will be carried out by the qualified conservators overseeing the project who obviously know a lot more about this.

A lack of funding from developers is not the sole reason for this project. You, perhaps more than others, should understand that funding is not always available to work on finds and find out more about a site. CSI: provides this unique opportunity and also opens up other possibilities and opportunities such as funded analysis, e.g. SEM, neutron tomography and XRF.

Also, the site is an important one for this part of Kent and thus should be presented to the public so they can find out more, not simply locked away in a store. The project not only informs people of the site but displays the conservation process and enlightens the public to the importance of the process. Surely this is good for archaeology and conservation?

The state of archaeological archives are a separate issue and should be part of the initial planning as you say, but as you are probably aware, it is not that simple so alternatives need to be sought. Conservation is always going to be about about compromise.

I’d like to know why you think it undermines the profession? Do you think it takes away jobs from newly qualified conservators or do you think it does away with the need for professionals?

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

I am one of the volunteer conservators.

I wish re-assure Philip Kevin that in no way are we trying to undermine the work of professional conservators. We are highly respectful of the work they carry out and their depth of knowledge – something I can only aspire to.

As previously mentioned this is a highly significant find for this area and without the volunteer project only a very small portion of the artefacts would have been investigated behind closed doors. I applaud Dana for her fore sight and courage in setting up the project. It is a privilege to be involved.

As stated before we are supervised at all times and have all been trained in cleaning the artefacts. We are never afraid to ask if we are unsure of anything and many interesting discoveries have been made by some of us lowly volunteers. We always use magnification, never the “naked eye”, in our work and are meticulous when recording and photography our finds.

This project has brought conservation into the public domain – which surely is not a bad thing? Members of the public are fascinated to see our work and I for one didn’t realise what was involvoed. I innocently thought everything came out of the ground clean (ala “Time Team”) not caked in centuries of soil that needed to be carefully cleaned away. It has opened my eyes to conservation.

We all hope we are doing a good job and not anything detremental.

Comment by Janet Apps

Ah, you got the letter,
very well.
What does it means “Sittingbourne”
and there is a special reason for such a large
Anglo-Saxon settlement there?

Comment by Mario Gatto

Mario, the name Sittingbourne is based on an old name, possibly Medieval or before, then Sydingborne (my spelling may be wrong!) but it meant ‘resting place by a stream’; it was on the pilgrim route from London to Canterbury and Chaucer’s pilgrims may have stayed here. Nowadays its a medium sized town, with local industry and many residents who commute to London for work (1 hour by train). The stream in question used to run across the London-Dover road (A2) but is now buried in a tunnel – sic transit gloria!

Comment by Sylvia Blackwell

Thank-you for the answer.
Interesting the meaning of the name.
But for Anglo-Saxon settlement
I intend that related to V – IX century.
Do you think Canterbury was important
even in the V century?

Comment by Mario Gatto

As a volunteer who has put in many hours at the microscope I find Phillip Kevin’s comments an insult! None of us just thought we would do this work: we responded to an appeal for volunteers by an experienced Conservator; she trained us well, it was a slow process from volunteering initially to beginning work on the fabulous Grave 115!

We have all learned a tremendous amount from working on these objects and each one of us is aware of our own limitations and of the precious nature of the objects; most of us have had some past experience dealing with fine hand work of some kind whether pursuing a hobby or in a trade or profession. Lets face it, if CSI had not been instigated, and the volunteers afraid to try their hands, all these objects would by now be deteriorating in storage and unseen, and unloved, by any of us. Unloved? A strange word to use but I think it describes the pride we all feel in our work and in the objects themselves, not to mention the skill of the makers. The mystery object itself demonstrates how little is known about this period.
I wonder if Philip Kevin is a professional archeologist/conservator? We shall never know!

Comment by Sylvia Blackwell

This looks great. I am a 17 year old currently studying forensic science at canterbury college, which I hope will eventually lead me on to archeology at university. This would be so good to do. so how do I get to help? Do I just turn up or make an appointment? Any advice please

Comment by Freya somerton

hi freya,

you can come along and speak to the volunteers and leave your contact details. We might be training more volunteers soon so someone is sure to be in touch. Thanks for your comments

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

I have just seen you on the tv, its about time
some one like you have came along. If i lived in Sittingbourn i would volunteer at once, keep up the good
work all the best greg K.o.Y

Comment by Gregory of Rochester

Hi, I have just been watching “Digging for Britain” BBC2 with Dr Alice Roberts. I was pleasantly surprised and captivated by the items on display. Some of the above comments are a bit bigoted. All objects belong to the nation and are NOT the sole right of archaeologist! Everyone has the right to help if asked. Peter.

Comment by Peter Cuthbert

I watched the TV programme “Digging for Britain” tonight and was so excited to see CSI Sittingbourne. What an absolutely wonderful idea Dana. To make Archaeology accessible to people who are fascinated by it or have a passion for it, but weren’t fortunate enough to be blessed with the extreme intelligence needed to pass the degree, is inspired. I wish I lived closer to Kent, I would love to volunteer, and although I admittedly wouldn’t have the ‘in depth knowledge of material science and chemistry involved’ I know that I would be extremely conscientious in the handling and cleaning of the objects. I am definitely going to come and visit. How much longer do you anticipate the project to be open for?

Comment by Elizabeth Mcglasson

I saw your content on last night’s BBC archaeology programme. I wish I’d known about you at the beginning of my summer holidays – I’m a teacher with past experience of archaeology – I would hae been over to Sittingbourne in a flash!
Keep up the good work. I think this is a brilliant idea and I will certainly tell my pupils about it and encourage them to check your website/pester parents for a visit, when school resumes next week.
Best wishes

Comment by Hazel Turner

I should like to add my congrats to CSI & I too would be there like a shot if I lived closer.I found the “Digging for Britain” series fascinating once again well done CSI for giving the volunteers a chance.

Comment by Pat McLennan

Hi Dana and the CSI project, saw you on Digging for Britain, and was delighted to see that Sittingbourne is actively encouraging the public to get hands on with archaeology. Not only does it give people a chance to open a window on the ancient world, they get trained by a leading metallurgist. Joe and I will pop down to see the exhibition soon. What a fabulous project. Love n Light Chris Toomey Cantiaci iron Age Living Historyx

Comment by Christine Toomey

Hi Dana, I am so excited abount your programme and would love to take part but I am unable to get to Sittingbourne but perhaps you could tell me if there is something similar in Essex, and if not why not. Thanks Brenda

Comment by Brenda

that’s unfortunate that you can’t get to Sittingbourne regularly. There is nothing like this in Essex, or indeed anywhere else in Britain, that we know of that allows for working on objects in such a way. CSI: is a first really and the risk of doing something like this has perhaps put others off doing something similar beforehand.

Local museums sometimes offer voluntary work in archives etc. Depending where you are in Essex then it might be worth contacting the Colchester and Ipswich museum (I think that is right, but correct me if I’m wrong) and contact Bob Entwhistle. I remember seeing a lecture he did and he seemed quite a fun man and he talked about volunteering.

I hope you find something and let us know how you get on. If you have the chance to visit please do.

ps. your email address made me laugh 😀

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

Dear Mrs Goodburn-Brown,

My name is Yannick Chastang, I am a furniture conservator based in the Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne. I am looking for XRF of brass, do you know anybody locally? Sorry if I used this blog on your web site to contact you, I could not find a direct contact email.

Many thanks in advance for your help,



PS: I am very interested by your work in Sittingbourne and would love to help if I could, but my area of “expertise” is French 18th century furniture….

Comment by yannick chastang

As a lay person I am in awe of the work carried out by archaeologists and appreciate the degree of expertise/experience required for the task, the painstaking care and precision of recording, etc. From early childhood I have been fascinated by this science and never imagined a lay person would ever have the opportunity of being involved in such an exciting project. If I lived closer to Sittingbourne I would have been at the head of the queue for volunteer interviews! I congratulate you on your innovative use of volunteers in the project and am hopeful that this will be a source of inspiration for other projects around the country.

Comment by Roz Dawson

Thanks very much for your kind comments Roz. If you’re ever passing then do come in and you’ll be made very welcome 🙂

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

Hi Dana and Co, I made the promised visit and was not disappointed, a truly fabulous project. It is so important to engage the public in this project. People who would usually shy away from a museum, find history and archaeology on their doorstep.Not only does it offer an awareness of the importance of the finds,(even the most mundane), they are able to learn and gain inspiration, in an area that may be completely unknown in their experience. Having been the beneficiary of Dana’s freely given advice and expertise, with the support she gave to Cantiaci Iron Age Living History. I wholeheartedly support this project, already people are being inspired to register for Universities around the Uk to learn more, and that is a fantastic result. May C S I long continue. Love n Light Chris Toomey

Comment by Christine Toomey

Many, many thanks to Chris and all the supportive comments above from members of the public! I continue to be inspired by the different people I meet through running this project – their interest and/or new skills they bring help to create the success of CSI: Sittingbourne. I just wish there were more hours in a day, so I could contribute more to this website!! – Huge thanks also to the CSI ‘webmasters’ and the rest of the CSI Team for all their hard work!

Comment by Dana

Hi, I was looking for an email address or other contact information for CSI Sittingbourne. I watched the feature on Digging For Britain, and would like visit and carry out an interview and study as part of my own studies and research in Heritage. Could somebody from CSI email me to discuss a visit and arrange a suitable time.

Many thanks

Comment by Andrew Birch

I’ll pass your email onto Dana and she may be in touch when she has time.

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

After watching Digging for Britain came and
visited you a couple of weeks ago, found it all fascinating, and wish you the best of luck with the continuing investigations.
Angela & Philip (Ipswich)

Comment by Angela and Philip Capon

thanks very much!

I think I remember you coming in if you spoke to us

Comment by anglosaxoncsi

Yes we did speak to some of you, one lady showed us a sword which was being examined and worked on, and we also went into the exhibition the other side. You have inspired me and I am going to the Suffolk Records office to vounteer one Friday in November, I don;tthink it will be as interesting as the things that you all do though!

Comment by Angela

Hi Dana – great to see so much interaction and debate about the CSI project – and so much support!


Comment by marion

Dear volunteers, visitors (over 13,000 since opening!!)and followers of CSI: Sittingbourne web blog: I’d like to wish you all the very best for the Holidays and hope to see you in the New Year. Sadly, we have finished our funded project (investigating half of the cemetery). As yet, we have been unsuccessful in finding funds to start a new project – the other half + training the 74 volunteers on our waiting list. The website will continue, but unfortunately the lab will be closed. Our ‘free rent’ period continues to Sept. 2011, so hopefully we will be able to open again in the coming months. Many thanks for all your support!

Comment by Dana

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