Prehistoric collection

Adult, male excavated from alluvial sediment in Greenwich

Adult, male excavated from alluvial sediment in Greenwich

The remains in this collection are believed to mainly date from the Bronze Age, though some may even date back to the Neolithic period. 

All were recovered during government building works conducted over the last 170 years.

Strengths of the collection

Although recent archaeological investigations have expanded our knowledge of prehistoric activity in London, few skeletal remains have been recovered from this period.

The remains in this collection were all recovered during government building works conducted over the last 170 years and are believed to mainly date from the Bronze Age, though some may even date back to the Neolithic period.

The state of preservation of these remains is incredibly varied, from a nearly complete inhumation found in a crouched burial position to single, fragmented bone elements.

Most of these remains appear to have been buried in close proximity to water, along the Thames and the River Lea at Walthamstow and at Stratford; because of this many of the remains exhibit a dark brown staining from mineral rich alluvial sediment and peat layers.  

East Ham Marshes

Now the Greenway at East Ham, this individual was found during excavations for the Northern Outfall Sewer during the latter half of the 19th century. Burial context: unknown. 1 cranium.

MNI: 1. Adult. Female.

Pathology present: dental enamel attrition, ante mortem tooth loss.

Donated by: Metropolitan Water Board.

Adult, female cranium from East Ham Marshes

Adult, female cranium from East Ham Marshes

East India Docks

These remains were found during deep excavation at the East India Docks in 1909.

Burial context: unknown. 1 cranium, 1 mandible, 2 left femora, 1 right humerus.

MNI: 2. All adults. 1 female, 1 indeterminate sex. No evident pathology.

Donated by: Royal College Of Surgeons.    

Greenwich

This individual was recovered from Thames alluvial deposits in Greenwich in 1960. 60% present.

Burial context: articulated burial.

MNI: 1. Adult. Male.

Pathology present: dental calculus, bilateral entheseal rhomboid fossae of the clavicles.

Donated by: London City Council.   

Adult, male, recovered from alluvial deposits in Greenwich

Adult, male, recovered from alluvial deposits in Greenwich

Millbank

This individual was found in 1929 at a depth of 13ft. (3.9m) during building works excavations just south-east of Lambeth Bridge on what is now Millbank.

Burial context: articulated, crouched. 80% present.

MNI: 1. Adult. Male.

Pathology present: dental enamel attrition, dental calculus, remodelling periostitis, schmorl’s nodes, compression fracture of a thoracic vertebra, congenital changes to lumbar vertebrae, congenital torsion of the right femur.

Donated by: Royal College of Surgeons.

Millwall

The remains of two individuals were recovered from deep excavations at the Union Docks in 1898. Archaeological investigations in the area show evidence of prehistoric activity all along this side of the Isle of Dogs, most notably a Bronze Age track way, just to the south of the docks.     

Burial context: unknown. 2 crania.

MNI: 2. 2 adults. 1 female, 1 probable female.

Pathology present: dental calculus.

Donated by: F. Corner Collection. 

Adult, probable female, recovered from Millwall

Adult, probable female, recovered from Millwall

Old Ford, Bow

Now the location of the Greenway at Stratford, these remains were found on the East side of the Lea River during excavations for the foundations of the Northern Outfall Sewer, built between the 1850s and 1880s.

Burial context: unknown. 2 crania.

MNI: 2. All adults. 1 male, 1 indeterminate sex.

Pathology present: Congenital defect of the occipital condyles and first cervical vertebrae.

Donated by: Metropolitan Water Board.  

Walthamstow Reservoir

Human remains were discovered during excavations for the Walthamstow Reservoirs, between 1853 and 1869, in layers of peat and shelly soil at depths of up to 9 and half feet (2.9m).

Burial context: unknown. 12 crania, 10 mandibles, miscellaneous axial and appendicular bones.

MNI: 12. 9 adults, 3 subadults. 3 probable female, 3 probable male, 5 indeterminate sex.

Pathology present: dental calculus, dental enamel attrition, ante mortem tooth loss, linear enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia.

Donated by: Joseph Wood and F. Corner Collection. 

Looking for a specific specimen?

The London human remains collection has been digitised

Collections team

Principal Curator

Dr Heather Bonney

Curator

Dr Rachel Ives

Curatorial assistant

Jennifer White

Any questions?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Read more

  • Tildesley ML (1931) Report on human skeleton from a depth of 13 ft. near Grosvenor Road, Westminster. Man31: 179-184.
  • The editor? (1869) The freshwater deposits of the valley of the Lea near Walthamstow, Essex. The Geological Magazine6: 385-388.

Related information

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