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Nichola Arthur
PhD Research
Past Life and Environments

Archaeological Human Remains from the River Thames and its London Deposits

Hundreds of human remains, mostly crania, have been recovered from the River Thames and its deposits over the last two centuries, through dredging, chance foreshore finds, and archaeological excavation. Radiocarbon dating undertaken on 24 individuals has provided dates ranging from the Neolithic to the Medieval periods, with the majority being prehistoric. Little is known about the origins of these remains and the people they came from. Previous scholarship has focused on debating whether the accumulation of crania reflects ritual relationships between prehistoric peoples and water, or taphonomic processes. This project will provide the first comprehensive study of over 300 sets of Thames remains. Multiple lines of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, isotopic analysis, and physical analysis, will be integrated in order to build a picture of the people behind the remains, and to examine how they came to rest in the river and its deposits. In doing so, this study will provide a valuable long-term perspective on human activity in the London area, and the interactions of people with the Thames environment. Furthermore, the study will inform broader understandings of the significance of aquatic environments to past peoples.
Heather Bonney
Mike Parker-Pearson
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