Selection of stone axeheads and maceheads found in the River Thames
Made from a mix of rare materials not native to the Thames Valley. Their finely polished surfaces and perfect condition indicate they were never used, but probably thrown into the water as offerings to the river deity.
How did this Neolithic man's body end up in the River Thames, washed onto the foreshore over five thousand years after his death?
The Thames at the time provided a wide range of natural resources as well as being an artery of communication and transportation. Increasingly, Neolithic people seem to have seen the Thames as a sacred river, perhaps similar to the Ganges in India. Offerings to the Thames's waters included human remains, pots, bone and antler tools, as well as many of flint and stone axes.
The largest and most beautiful axes and maces, often made from rare, exotic stones and some traded from as far away as Ireland, Cornwall, and mainland Europe, seem to have been deliberately chosen as gifts to the spirits of the river. Could this Neolithic man's body have been another offering to the sacred river?
Of course, it could be a coincidence: the changing course of the river and its tributaries washed over many early settlements, doubtless sweeping away Neolithic graves.
However he found his way to the water, this ancient skull now serves as a reminder of the long, long history of humanity in the London area.
Dr. Rebecca Redfern, Curator of Human Osteology said: "This is an incredibly significant find and we’re so excited to be able to showcase it at the Museum of London. The Thames is such a rich source of archaeology for us and we are constantly learning from the finds that wash up on the foreshore.
We are grateful to the Metropolitan Police for their collaboration with us on this and are eager to welcome visitors to see this new discovery.”