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VAGNIACAE (Springhead) Kent, England.

A settlement on Watling Street, some 32 km SE of London, mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary. Excavation on both sides of the Roman line of Watling Street has revealed numerous buildings, of both stone and timber. There appears to have been no appreciable occupation of the site in prehistoric times and it was abandoned entirely at the end of the Roman period.

The planning of the settlement, which appears never to have been defended, was elementary. The constituent buildings were mostly aligned on Watling Street, close to the road margins. At least three streets left the main road on the S side, and two on the N. The buildings, however, make it plain that Springhead was not an ordinary roadside village: no less than seven of the structures in the complex appear to have been temples or cult buildings. The site is thus of unique character in Roman Britain and is one of the few cult centers of the W provinces to have been extensively explored.

At the heart of the cult center lay a walled temenos, entered through a square monumental gateway from which steps led down into the temple precinct. In the entrance court stood a statue base or altar, before which was a votive pit containing two animal burials and a number of coins. Within the temenos lay two large temples of the square Romano-Celtic type, both of them with wings, or antae, on their E sides. One building (Temple I) had a square central cella containing a base for altars, while the other (Temple II) had a number of pier bases arranged on a square plan in the center, suggesting that the central area had been an open court. Temple I also had an unusual and puzzling feature on its W side, a square projecting room, apparently contemporary with the main structure.

The temenos included at least three other stone buildings which had religious functions, though they may not all have been temples. All were small, rectangular structures, two of them without subdivisions. Votive objects were found in all three buildings, and beneath each of the four corners of one (“Temple” IV) lay a foundation burial of a child. Indications of the cults practiced at Springhead are slight. A terracotta figurine of the Gaulish pseudo-Venus type was found in Temple I, and a bronze model of a thumb from the same area hints at a healing cult.

On the other side of Watling Street lay other buildings which are likely to have been temples, one of which yielded a bone statuette of a genius cucullatus. Yet another temple lies less than 1 km to the S. Domestic buildings appear to have been few and simple in plan.


Archaeologia Cantiana 73 (1959) 1; 74 (1960) 113;77 (1962) 110;80 (1965) 107.


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