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24 September 2014

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You are in: Kent > History > Local History > Thanet: Isle of Death

Old map of Thanet

Old map of Thanet

Thanet: Isle of Death

There are many explanations for the name "Thanet". Which one is your favourite?

Hamish Reid byline

The name "Tenet" was listed in the Domesday book of 1086, whereas in the 18th century classical dictionary of John Lemprise it is states "Tane'tus, a small island of Albion. Ptolemy calls it Tolianis. It is now Thanet."

The word Tanatus may come from the Celtic work "teine", meaning "fire" or "bonfire" and "arth" meaning "height" and would make Thanet the Bright Island. It could well be that a lighthouse or beacon was situated on Telegraph Hill, west of Manston, one of the highest points on the island. There isn't any evidence of this on the ground, and it may have been that there were several beacons arranged along the coast.

According to Greek legend Britain itself was the home to the dead, and that the bodies were rowed across the sea in un-manned boats in the middle of the night and returned empty before dawn. This mysterious place was called "Ynys Thanatos" - the Isle of the Dead.

Bockin's Isle of the Dead

Bockin's Isle of the Dead

The tale has inspired the painter Boklin, who painted his "Isle of the Dead" in 1883. He produced several versions of the painting, all of which depict an oarsman and a figure, dressed in white, crossing towards the island in a small boat which also contains a coffin.

Thanet burial grounds

Thanet burial grounds

Sergei Rachmaminov wrote a symphonic poem in 1909 on the same theme which uses an uneven rhythm to portray the boat going through the moving water.

The fact that Thanet has more Bronze age burial mounds than anywhere else in Britain which could have been seen right out to sea, and the Isle and already had the name Tane'tus may be just a coincidence. What do you think??

last updated: 27/05/2008 at 15:52
created: 15/05/2006

You are in: Kent > History > Local History > Thanet: Isle of Death

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