Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Isle of Thanet and the island thing, reflections on prehistoric times.

In a Christian country and even if Britain’s status as such now is debatable, it certainly was a Christian country when most of Thanet’s best know historians were writing.

John Mockett writing in Thanet in 1836 states that the world was created in 4004 BC, to put this in the perspective of the view of the modern archaeologist this is about the time that farming replaced hunter gathering in Britain.

So if you like, either god created the world in 4004 BC and had a bit of a joke with modern archaeologists, by creating it with lots of fossils, flint tools and strange rock strata or the bible is wrong.

Here in Thanet there is very little evidence of human occupation before 4004 BC so it would be an easy cop out to start my history of Thanet then.

The latest and probably most accurate information on prehistoric Thanet is to be found in Gerald Moody’s excellent book “ The isle of Thanet from Prehistory to the Norman Conquest” I have it in stock priced £17.99.

It goes into the history of this period in depth and should you wish to do so it’s an absolute must read.

The history of the Wantsum channel that once divided The Isle of Thanet from the mainland is the subject of scholarly debate even now there are uncertainties as to how and when it was formed and to when it silted up or was filled in.

I am assuming here that those of you that wish to consider the formation of the world’s continents from 4,000,000,000 BC and the emergence of man between about 2,000,000 BC and 12,000 BC will look elsewhere.

Anyway I am going to commit the heresy of starting my history of Thanet around 12,000 BC around the end of the last ice age.

At this time Britain was still part of the continent of Europe and Thanet was part of the whole landmass, during the great melt down the sea rose by about 1,000 feet.

It would be nice to consider this a gradual event, with people and animals getting out of the way, such historical documentation that exists relating to the sea regaining landmasses in this part of the world in more modern times, suggests that every 50 years or so there would have been a huge storm combined with a tidal surge, taking a large area of land and drowning a great many people and animals.

Putting together the conjectures of such scholars I have read it seems likely that somewhere around 4,000 BC Thanet became an island. The shape of that island would have been due to a mixture of three things, the height of the existing land (hills and valleys), the rising sea level and the action of costal erosion.

Scholarly conjecture puts the size of The isle of Thanet at this time at about three times today’s size, with most of the extra landmass being to the north and east. I will refrain from attempting to draw a map, I have been looking at some others have drawn recently based on scholarly conjecture rather than topographical information and will refrain from comment.

You can try a guess the date of the map above it comes from Lewis published in 1736 and obviously shows Thanet at a much earlier time, did Lewis copy it from an early source, or did he just make it up?


  1. More than a bit of artistic license going on here I think Michael _ I doubt if the Wantsum was ever as free-flowing as that even in Roman times and it would certainly not have looked like that in the 1700s.

  2. Millicent perhaps Lewis had supped well that night, as is no longer here to defend himself I have linked his comments to the next post. Well best I can do, as you may know he often had to defend himself from comments from other historians.


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