Prehistoric Londoners lived by the River Thames 9,000 years ago – rail project uncovers city’s long history

Prehistoric Londoners lived by the River Thames 9,000 years ago – rail project uncovers city’s long history


Britain’s biggest construction project has uncovered a Mesolithic tool-making factory; a Roman road; and 4,000 skeletons from a 16th-17th century burial ground.



Archaeologists working alongside the Crossrail project found 150 pieces of flint during tunnelling work in Woolwich, which they say came from cobbles fished from the River Thames which were then worked into tools.  They believe the site was part of a substantial settlement of ThamesValley hunter-gatherers, which marked the early repopulation of England after the Ice Age.

Twenty feet below Liverpool Street they have discovered a well-made section of Roman road, including human bones, a coin and a horseshoe in the road’s foundations.  It is thought that, as it is now, the ancient Liverpool Street area was a busy trade route into Roman Londinium.  The archaeologists hope to uncover more of the road, as well as the foundations of the Roman buildings that stood alongside it.

Gold has also been discovered at the Liverpool Street site, in the form of a 16th Century gold coin used as a pendant.  Close by are around 4,000 skeletons from Bedlam, a 16th-17th century burial ground which the archaeologists will begin excavating next year.  The long-dead Londoners, thought to be mainly paupers and patients from the Bedlam psychiatric asylum, were buried there over a period of about 150 years.

Earlier this year, the Crossrail project also unearthed 12 skeletons belonging to victims of the Black Death, the plague that wiped out at least half of London’s population in 1348.  The skeletons, arranged in careful rows, were discovered 8 feet below the ground in Charterhouse Square during the construction of a tunnel shaft at Farringdon tube station.

London finds - a skull from the site of the Bedlam graveyard; a Roman Sestertius brass coin from around AD 30; and a 16th century Venetian gold coin be worn as a pendant.
London finds – a skull from the site of the Bedlam graveyard; a Roman Sestertius brass coin from around AD 30; and a 16th century Venetian gold coin be worn as a pendant.

Sources: BBC and the Independent

Feature Image credit: John Tomanio



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