Hundreds Of Bones Along The Banks Of The Thames

M@
By M@ Last edited 74 months ago
Hundreds Of Bones Along The Banks Of The Thames
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The location.
The location.

If you were to encounter a thigh bone in the street, you'd probably stop to take a look. You'd possibly call the police. On certain parts of the Thames foreshore such a sight is commonplace.

Reader James Whiteacre sent us these shots of a particularly bone-strewn stretch of the river, just west of Swan Lane in the City. The melange includes (what looks like) an animal's femur, assorted rib bones, oyster shells, lumps of coals and the odd clay pipe.

Many of these artefacts will have lain here for decades or even centuries, washed twice a day by the tidal Thames but rarely moving far. The bones are probably the remains of butchered animals, cast into the river long ago. The clay pipes, readily found along the Thames in central London, were an omnipresent feature of London life before the invention of paper cigarettes. The discarded pipes are so common that one Londoner makes jewellery from them.

It's perfectly legal to wander along the foreshore and take home any of this common jumble from the surface, just be careful of the rising tides. However, digging into the detritus or metal detecting requires a licence. Finds of significance, such as worked pottery, jewellery, coins or other crafted items should be reported to the Finds Liaison Officer at the Museum of London. Those interested in pursuing mudlarking as a hobby should check out the Thames and Field Metal Detecting Society, who have what must be the most eccentric web site in London.

Last Updated 01 December 2011

Rick Glanvill

Not surprising given that generations of butchered animal bones were dumped in the Fleet (a few yards upstream) or barrowed down and ditched in the Thames.

Nathalie Cohen

If you'd like to know more about the archaeology of the Thames foreshore, do check out the Thames Discovery Programme website too www.thamesdiscovery.org

Guest

As I understand it, the majority are horses thrown into the river when they drop dead on the street. Remember it took millions of horses to keep London moving before petrol took over completely.

Jonnie

Yeah. I was down near there in the summer. There's loads. Found a jaw bone with the teeth in. People didn't believe me when I told them. Now they will. Taaaaa. 

Mr Detector

Don't bother contacting Thames and Field, thay were very rude and unhelpful to me