Institute of Archaeology


Nichola Arthur

Archaeological Human Remains from the River Thames and its London Deposits


Section: Archaeological Sciences


  • Heather Bonney(Natural History Museum)
  • Louise Martin
  • Jane Sidell (Historic England/UCL)

Archaeological Human Remains from the River Thames and its London Deposits

Hundreds of human remains, mostly crania, have been recovered from the River Thames and its deposits over the last two centuries, through dredging, chance foreshore finds, and archaeological excavation. A limited number of radiocarbon dates have identified the presence of individuals ranging from the Early Neolithic to Post-Medieval periods, with the majority dating to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Previous scholarship has focused, without resolution, on debating whether these accumulations of crania reflect ritual relationships between prehistoric peoples and water, or taphonomic processes. This project will represent the first comprehensive study of the Thames remains, and aims to provide a holistic understanding of their deposition in the riverine context. Bioarchaeological perspectives, previously neglected in relation to the Thames remains, will be drawn on to develop new understanding of the individuals and groups who comprise the assemblage. Taphonomic approaches will be utilised to examine the post-mortem depositional histories of the remains. In doing so, this study is expected to inform broader understandings of the significances of watery environments to past peoples, as well as providing a valuable long-term perspective on human activity in the London area.


NERC (London DTP)


  • BA Anthropology, University of Durham, 2011
  • MSc Palaeopathology, University of Durham, 2014

    Arthur NA, Gowland RL, Redfern RC. 2016. Coming of Age in Roman Britain: Osteological Evidence for Pubertal Timing. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159:698-713

    Conference papers

    2015: 'Coming of age: the timing of puberty in Roman Britain, accessed through newly-developed osteological methods'. British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) Annual Conference, Sheffield University.

    2016: 'Coming of age in Roman Britain: osteological evidence for pubertal timing'. Little Lives: New Perspectives on Childhood and the Life Course in Bioarchaeology, Durham University

    2018: 'Trauma and trepanation in archaeological human remains from the River Thames'. Natural History Museum Student Association Conference, Natural History Museum, London