Basic Site Facts
Period: middle Bronze Age (12th century BC)
Location: 500m seaward of white cliffs, East of Dover Harbour, Kent
Reason for Designation: archaeological significance
Wreck History and Loss
This site (like Moor Sand) comprises a collection of bronze objects dated using the typology of the metalwork to about 1100 BC. These items have been identified as types of tools, weapons and ornaments made in France and rarely found in Britain. The current hypothesis suggests this site represents the remains of a Bronze Age vessel carrying a scrap metal cargo from France to Britain which implies cross-channel trade in the Middle Bronze Age (see also Moor Sand).
It is possible that the boat was attempting to make Dover harbour when it was blown off course. This is supported by the discovery of the famous Dover Bronze Age boat only 2½ miles away.
Discovery and Investigation
The site was discovered in 1974 by Simon Steven and Mike Hadlow, divers from the Dover Sub-Aqua Club on a training dive, who noticed a number of bronze objects exposed on the seabed. By 1978, 135 finds had been recovered and a preliminary investigation by Keith Muckelroy uncovered many more objects and led to designation of the site. Work on the site continued after Muckelroy's death in 1980 under the direction of Martin Dean, then of the National Maritime Museum and Stuart Needham of the British Museum and the site licensee, the late Alan Moat. Much of Muckelroy’s work was published in archaeological journals.
Since the discovery of the site in 1974, 360 objects have been properly recorded and raised through systematic survey and excavation. These were acquired and analysed by the British Museum, but are currently on loan to Dover Museum were they are on display in the Bronze Age boat gallery. The collection is unique in terms of its object composition and is by far the largest group of metalwork in north-west Europe for this part of the Bronze Age 1300 – 1150 BC.
It contains some finds that are common in neighbouring continental regions but extremely rare in Britain; some that are continental in origin but not uncommon in Britain, and others that are rare at this date anywhere. Provisional interpretation has seen this as a cargo of scrap collected from dispersed locations mainly along the continental sea-board of the Channel and southern North Sea.
In recent years work on the site has been affected by the construction of the Channel Tunnel which produced a blanket of fine chalk sediment, however, this has now dispersed. In 2002 the Archaeological Diving Unit (ADU) produced a detailed swath bathymetry survey of the area which will provide a basis for further monitoring of the site. Bournemouth University, in conjunction with St Andrews University, the British Museum and the Department of Materials at Oxford University are currently assessing the documentary and material archive as part of the English Heritage-funded ‘Bronze Age Designated Wreck Site Archive Assessment’ project, with a view to publication.