By Nadine White
A fragment of a Neolithic skull discovered by a mudlark on the south bank of the Thames has gone on display at the Museum of London.
Dating from 3600BC, the skull is one of the earliest human finds to be made in the capital’s river.
Only a small part of it – the frontal bone – was unearthed, but researchers think it belonged to a man over the age of 18. Radiocarbon dating commissioned by the Metropolitan Police revealed he probably died around 5,600 years ago.
Dr Rebecca Redfern, curator of Human Osteology at the Museum of London, said: “This is an incredibly significant find and we’re so excited to be able to showcase it at the Museum of London.
“The Thames is such a rich source of history for us and we are constantly learning from the finds that wash up on the foreshore. We are grateful to the Metropolitan Police for their collaboration with us on this and are eager to welcome visitors to see this new discovery.”
The skull fragment will go on display in the ‘London before London’ gallery and will sit amongst other Neolithic finds that have been discovered along the Thames foreshore.
DC Matt Morse, of the Met Police, said: “Upon reports of a human skull fragment having been found along the Thames foreshore, detectives from South West CID attended the scene.
“Not knowing how old this fragment was, a full and thorough investigation took place, including further, detailed searches of the foreshore. The investigation culminated in the radiocarbon dating of the skull fragment, which revealed it to be likely belonging to the Neolithic Era.
“Having made this discovery, we linked in with the Museum of London who were more than happy to accept the remain.”
During last summer’s heatwave, archaeologists unearthed thousands of years of buried history in various locations across the country, prompting Historic England’s mapping manager Helen Winton to describe 2018 as a “potential bumper year” for archaeologists.
Neolithic ceremonial monuments, Iron Age settlements and a Roman farm have been all been revealed, as dry weather and lack of rain allowed cropmarks – areas where archaeological features can be easily seen from the air – to form faster.
“It is very exciting to have hot weather for this long,” said Winton.
“2011 was the last time we had an exceptional year, when we discovered over 1,500 sites, with most on the claylands of eastern England.”