The River Thames collection

A series of skulls from Ripple Road, Barking

A series of skulls from Ripple Road, Barking

The River Thames has been an important feature in the landscape of southern England for thousands of years.

The remains in this collection were recovered from the Thames, between Richmond in the west and Crossness in the east.

Recovered over the last 150 years and most probably date from the Neolithic and Bronze Age. 

Origins of the collection

Dredging and excavation

The remains in this collection were recovered in the early nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century - primarily from dredging the river and excavating for building works.

Two major dredging projects occurred during this period, recovering the vast majority of the remains in this collection.

Blackwall Tunnel

The late nineteenth century was a time of great engineering advancement, enabling the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel and other deep excavations along the banks of the river, and thus uncovering the rest of these remains.

Bronze Age

Dating evidence suggests that some of these individuals could have lived during the Bronze Age and even the Neolithic.

Most of the remains were donated directly to the Museum in the late nineteenth century with the others first becoming part of the collections at the Royal College of Surgeons, then transferred to the Museum during the 1950s.

Individuals of note

Trauma 

PA SK 1506

Individual with healed sharp force trauma

Individual with healed sharp force trauma

PA SK 1518

Individual with healed blunt force trauma

Individual with healed blunt force trauma

Cribra orbitalia

PA SK 1530

Individual with cribra orbitalia

Individual with cribra orbitalia

Dental abscess

PA SK 4092

Individual with a dental abscess

Individual with a dental abscess

Looking for a specific specimen?

The London human remains collection have 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

Related information

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Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.