Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Celtic Dover in Kent

Dover, Dubra, the Town by the Water
The name Dover derives from the ancient Celtic Dubra, meaning the waters. Among Dover’s ancient inhabitants are the Canti, a Celtic tribe belonging to the Britons who inhabited Britannia, the land that extended from Kent to Cornwall and all the way north to the lands of the Scots and the Picts.

Dover’s Position in Celtic Kent
Dover, the Celtic Dubra, was Kent’s main port, a natural haven situated around a wide river estuary between the cliffs and distancing only 22 miles from the European continent.

Dover’s river is the Dour, a name of ancient Celtic origin meaning literally river. The Dour is now a stream, but in days of old it was a navigable river with a wide outlet into the sea that included the area where Market Square is now situated in Dover’s town-centre. The river and the town both derive their name from the same word indicating water. The name Dubra, the waters, could have referred equally to the town’s position near the sea and near the river.

Ancient Britain’s Trade Through Dover
From very early times Britain’s population maintained economic ties with the Celtic tribes on the continent, and as the Dour estuary was a natural haven for ships crossing the channel between Britain and Gaul, a significant proportion of trade passed through Dover.

Over 350 Bronze Age tools have been discovered on the sea-bed just outside Dover Harbour, presumably part of a cargo that sank before reaching the port. These tools include axes, knives, spearheads, chisels and pins dating back to 1100 BC. All these items appear to be used tools and were probably being transported as metal for recycling.

The World’s Oldest Sea Vessel in Dover
The oldest existing sea-faring vessel in the world is the Dover Bronze Age boat, discovered in 1992 during excavations to build an underground passage.

The vessel is made of oak planks and is 9,5 metres long and 2,4 metres wide. Its original length is believed to have been about 12 metres. The boat was built around 1550 BC and, after being used for sea transport, was left to lie at the bottom of the Dour close to the shore, where mud formed a protective case around it, preserving the boat for three and a half thousand years.

The river Dour’s original entrance into the sea became silted up some time during the early Middle Ages, and its course altered slightly towards the East of the town. The original port became the town’s market square, and a new strip of coast gradually formed between Dover’s Eastern and Western Heights, largely due to the natural movement of shingle on the sea-bed and to mud being washed into the sea from the Dour.

The Bronze Age Boat was found under Townwall Street, just several yards from a restaurant called the Britannia! Carefully preserved in Dover Museum, it is Britain’s oldest testimony to maritime trade, dating back to a period 750 years prior to the foundation of Rome.

Dover, Britain’s Oldest Known Port
Dover is probably Britain’s oldest settlement, and being situated by the water, as its ancient name reveals, Dover is Britain’s oldest known port.

Among the artefacts discovered in and around Dover are axes, chisels, knives and pins from 1600 to 1400 BC, similar to those found on the sea-bed near the harbour. There are also some beautiful items of gold from 1400 and 1300 BC, one being a bracelet and the other a torc made by interlacing four strips of gold.

The oldest items are two wonderful vases from 1800 BC, both found intact. One of these came to light near the Castle, indicating that Britain’s oldest settlement may have stood on the white cliffs of Dover.

Written by D. Alexander

Read more on the world's oldest sea vessel:

Read on to find out about Celtic origins:

Photo 1: Light Tower Church above the Port of Dover

Photo 2: The River Dour in Dover

Photo 3: Bronze Age tools, Dover Museum 

No comments:

Post a Comment