london Archaeology of the Thames
environment, they also begin to disintegrate, meaning that opportunities to record and understand these fragile sites can be limited.
Thousands of artefacts have been recovered from the river, but what do we know about what lies beneath the swift-flowing water: the archaeology of the riverbed and foreshore itself?
Surprisingly, though, there has been relatively little systematic archaeological investigation of the Thames foreshore until recent times. The earliest excavations, under the directorship of Sir Mortimer Wheeler, were carried out by the London Museum in 1928 on the foreshore near the mouth of the River Brent. Parts of a structure were revealed, dated to the 2nd-3rd century AD and interpreted as a hut floor. In 1949, Ivor Noël Hume of the Guildhall Museum recorded the foreshore along the south bank between London
ABoVE lEFT A Bronze Age trackway at Erith. ABoVE Root systems of a Bronze Age forest at Erith.
BEloW Bronze Age bridge or jetty structure, found near Vauxhall.
Bridge and Cannon Street Railway Bridge and produced a plan of his discoveries.
Investigations of the Brentford foreshore continued during the 1950s under Noël Hume’s direction and evidence was recovered of possible domestic structures, this time dating to the Iron Age, and further artefactual material suggesting occupation during the Romano-British period. Work continued at Isleworth into the 1970s and the Wandsworth Historical Society (WHS) began a campaign of systematic recording of areas along the borough’s foreshore.
In 1976, the newly created Museum of London was opened, and a process was established specifically to deal with artefacts retrieved from the foreshore, a link that has been further strengthened in recent years by the development of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Additionally, numerous commercial archaeology projects have revealed a wealth of data regarding Roman and later Medieval waterfront construction and provided vital information in understanding the development of the river and its role in the lives of Londoners over time.
A New Approach
In the early 1990s, a more rigorous examination of the archaeology of the foreshore began. In 1993, a roundwood pile structure of oak, dated to the Bronze Age (1750-1285 BC) and believed to be part of a bridge or jetty structure, was found on the foreshore at Vauxhall by a team from the Institute of Archaeology UCL, led byGustavMilne and Jon Cotton from the Museum of London. It was clear
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July 2010 |