when i was doing that blog i wrote about noticing that the banks of the thames are strewn with bones. it just occured to me to google for bones on the banks of the thames.
Burial in water `normal rite' for 1,000 years: skeletons, animal skulls and other Iron Age offerings found in Thames
Human bones and other prehistoric remains from a dried-up channel of the Thames in Berkshire have shed light on one of the enduring mysteries of the last millennium BC - where and how people disposed of their dead.
The new evidence suggests that burial in rivers or lakes may have been the normal funeral rite in Britain for nearly 1,000 years before the coming of the Romans, following the demise of cremation in about 900 BC.
Marks on the bones from the Thames may also suggest, more controversially, some degree of cannibalism - or at least ritual defleshing of skeletons - in funeral ceremonies in this period.
This unprecedented evidence, if substantiated further, will mark the exceptionally late survival of a practice thought to have died out in Europe at least 5,000 years earlier.
Few human burials are known in Britain from the late Bronze Age/Iron Age periods. A number of skulls dredged up from riverbeds across Britain, and dated to the 1st millennium BC, first raised the possibility that the dead may have been buried in water - but more substantial evidence was not available. Now, however, excavations by the Oxford Archaeological Unit at Eton have produced clear signs of funeral rituals taking place on sandbank islands in the middle of the river. Skulls and bones belonging to up to 15 individuals were found on the islands, and of these eight have been radiocarbon dated to between about 1300 - 200 BC. The others are undated, but some are associated with bridge timbers previously dated to the early Iron Age.
Surrounding one island was a ring of wooden stakes, interpreted as mooring posts for funeral boats. Downstream, a wooden platform was built over another island. In addition to the human bones, the excavators found skulls from horses and cattle, and two complete pots.
By the edge of the stream, a pair of quernstones had been carefully placed one above the other. A Bronze Age ard was also found a couple of years ago in the middle of the channel, associated with charred grain and human bones.
According to excavation director Tim Allen, the evidence suggests that `a range of rituals' took place by rivers - not just the well-known deposition of weapons and metalwork - and that burial in water `was a standard part of the burial rite in the last millennium BC'.
The discovery of bones from the same skeletons, apparently in situ, implies that the dead - either as whole or part bodies - were weighted down in the water to prevent complete disintegration. A lack of scavengers' marks on the bones suggests they had not previously been exposed on dry land. Other marks, however, are more perplexing. Five long-bones, examined by Margaret Cox of Bournemouth University, seem to have been deliberately smashed in a way normally interpreted - for much earlier periods - as an attempt to extract the marrow for food. Other cutmarks suggest that the flesh may have been deliberately removed from the bone. Defleshing, or scalping, is not unknown among Iron Age burials but cannibalism is unheard-of for the period.