For thousands of years, humans have lived alongside England's River Thames. They have left some very interesting things behind in its muddy waters: wooden clubs for bashing in heads, a toilet which fits three butts at once and sometimes, even some bits of human skulls.
On 20th February, the Museum of London has put one such skull fragment on display. According to a statement from the museum, the fractured frontal skull bone which is displayed belonged to an adult man who lived sometime around 3600 B.C. This makes this Neolithic skull chunk one of the oldest human specimens which are ever pulled out of the Thames.
According to the museum, the specimen was initially founded near the southern shores of the Thames by a "mudlarker". A mudlarker is a person who digs through the river mud in search of valuables. It’s the business of mudlarkers to scavenge the Thames for hundreds of years. In fact, the 500-year-old skeleton of a dead mudlarker wearing thigh-high leather boots was recently extracted from the river. The news is a combination of excitement as well as terror. By the shattered chunk of the human cranium, he found by the river, the mudlarker promptly called the police. This is what any of us would have done in that situation.
Matt Morse, a detective at the London Metropolitan Police, said that upon reports of a human skull fragment having been discovered along the Thames foreshore, many detectives from South West Criminal Investigation Department attended the scene. He further added that a complete and thorough investigation took place without knowing how old this fragment was. This includes further, detailed searches of the foreshore.
The police department didn’t turn up, for better or worse, any more bones. Utilizing radiocarbon dating, that measures levels of various versions of radioactive carbon atoms, they at least learned that the fragment was not involved in any latest criminal activity. The skull bone came from a male of 18 years of age who lived roughly 5,600 years ago.
Beginning tomorrow, you can see the bone for yourself at the Museum of London. It will sit there alongside other Neolithic artifacts which are carried through time by the mad, muddy River Thames.
By: Preeti Narula