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Archaeological human remains from the River Thames and its London deposits

Arthur, Nichola Alice; (2022) Archaeological human remains from the River Thames and its London deposits. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Watery places, such as rivers, lakes, and bogs, are widely considered to have been foci for ritualised deposition during the prehistoric and early historical periods in northwest Europe. Hundreds of human remains, mostly isolated crania, have been recovered from the London reaches of the River Thames over the last two centuries, predominantly through historical dredging activities. The origin of these remains has long been debated: one line of thought arguing that the majority reflect later prehistoric ritual deposition practices, and another that they are the result of fluvial processes acting through time. While mindful of previous scholarship, this thesis aims to move beyond the debates as previously configured. Emphasis is placed on the physical remains themselves, and multiple lines of new radiocarbon, taphonomic, osteological, and stable isotopic carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and sulphur (δ34S) data have been generated. This large dataset is utilised to provide a comprehensive examination of the assemblage and its deposition. The new radiocarbon dates confirm previous observations of a bias towards individuals of Late Bronze and Iron Age dates. A bias towards adult males and a high prevalence of violence-related trauma suggest a possible relationship between martial activities and deposition in the Iron Age, and potentially also the Late Bronze Age. Highly depleted δ34S values were identified for the prehistoric period individuals, which are among the lowest found in any Holocene European context to-date. These low values likely indicate the utilisation of floodplain resources, and that these individuals may have lived locally to the river floodplain. Overall, the findings of this thesis do suggest that the deposition of many of the human remains in the river may have occurred in ritual contexts in certain time periods, as opposed to being purely the result of fluvial processes acting through time.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Archaeological human remains from the River Thames and its London deposits
Event: UCL (University College London)§
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141854
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