Archaeology dig discovers London’s prehistoric past

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Crossrail archaeologists have discovered rare evidence of humans living on the Thames 9,000 years ago, in southeast London.

The discovery of a Mesolithic ‘tool-making factory’ which included 150 pieces of flint, among them blades, were found at Crossrail’s tunnelling worksite in North Woolwich.

Archaeologists believe prehistoric Londoners were using the site to test, divide and prepare river cobbles used to make flint tools, before transporting them to another site to complete the tool-making process.

 

Flint at North Woolwich_ archaeologist Jason Stewart
Flint at North Woolwich : Credit Cross Rail

Crossrail Lead Archaeologist Jay Carver said: “This is a unique and exciting find that reveals evidence of humans returning to England and in particular the Thames Valley after a long hiatus during the Ice Age. It is one of a handful of archaeology sites uncovered that confirms humans lived in the Thames Valley at this time. The concentration of flint pieces shows that this was an exceptionally important location for sourcing materials to make tools that were used by early Londoners who lived and hunted on Thames Estuary islands.”

Crossrail has also discovered its first piece of gold on the project, a 16th Century gold coin that was used as a sequin or pendent, similar to those worn by wealthy aristocrats and royalty.

Discovered at Crossrail’s Liverpool Street station site, it is unknown how such a precious and expensive gold item made its way to what was then regarded as a deprived area.

At Liverpool Street, Crossrail archaeologists are also uncovering layers of London’s history including the 16th Century Bedlam burial ground and Roman London.

Archaeologists have also uncovered an exceptionally well made Roman road, where a strange find of human bone in the foundations has surprised archaeologists. Roman horse shoes have also been found in the road.

Roman Road with brush wood and bone : Credit Cross Rail
Roman Road with brush wood and bone : Credit Cross Rail

The bone is suspected to have come from a nearby Roman cemetery, located about 50 metres from the archaeology site, and was found in the layers of rammed earth, clay and brush wood which made up the road.

The bone may have been washed out of the cemetery by the River Thames tributary, the Walbrook, which was responsible for depositing skulls down stream that were originally thought to be heads of Boudicca’s victims from the revolution in the 1st Century.

Archaeologists are hopeful that when they start large scale excavations to remove 3,000 skeletons from the 17th Century burial ground next year, they will also locate more of the Roman road, along with foundations of Roman buildings that stood alongside the road.

Jay Carver continued: “This location in the heart of Liverpool Street holds a rich deposit of archaeology that provides an insight into London’s history over the last 2,000 years. Work to relocate local utilities is providing us with a tantalising glimpse of important finds just a few metres below street-level. We plan to excavate the Bedlam burial ground next year and carefully remove up to 3,000 skeletons as well as excavate a wider area to unearth Roman London.”

Among the latest Crossrail finds is one of the UK’s richest deposits of 17th Century crafts. Local craft manufacturers appeared to have used the burial ground for fly tipping during the 1600s, providing archaeologists with an understanding of how east London manufacturers made expensive crafts for wealthy Londoners.

The finds include rare and exotic tortoise shell and elephant teeth which were used to make crafts such as expensive fans for London’s wealthy.

Header Image : Archaeological finds at Broadgate ticket hall, August 2013 : Credit Crossrail

Contributing Source : Crossrail

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