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Stone Age Prehistoric Settlement

Prehistoric settlement discovered on planned site for US Embassy in London

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A prehistoric campsite has been uncovered along the Thames River in an area set aside for the new US Embassy in London, according to a report in Live Science . Researchers have not yet been able to narrow down a specific time period, but have estimated that the site dates back to between 12,000 and 500,000 years. If it is the latter, the discovery will be hailed as a very significant finding.

"Prehistoric sites in London are extremely rare and to have such a vast horizon preserved is quite significant," said Kasia Olchowska, a senior archaeologist at the Museum of London Archaeology.

Archaeologists were carrying out excavations ahead of the Embassy’s construction when they uncovered Stone Age tools, the charred remains of campfires, animal bones, and a possible fish trap made up of two rows of disintegrating wooden stakes stretching over an area 12 meters long.

 Crumbling wooden posts - Thames, London

These crumbling wooden posts may have been part of a fish trap along the Thames more than 11,000 years ago. Credit: MOLA

The oldest artifact from the site is believed to be Paleolithic flint, which was likely swept into place by a river channel. Researchers haven't pinpointed an exact age for the stone tool, but they think it was crafted between 100,000 and 12,000 years ago, but perhaps as old as 500,000 years. Further research is being carried out in an attempt to narrow that time frame.

The team also found other stone tools, too, including a 12,000-year-old plunging blade, which would have been set in bone or wood and used as a tool or weapon, and handheld Neolithic scrapers that would have been used for woodwork or hide-cleaning.

Paleolithic flint ni London

A Paleolithic flint found at the site of the new U.S. Embassy in London. Credit: MOLA/ Andy Chopping

Olchowska explained that the area was most likely used for temporary camping spots for hunting and fishing expeditions. In ancient times, the area consisted of a network of channels and was much wetter than it is today, making it unsuitable for permanent settlement. 

While it is most likely that the building of the Embassy will proceed as intended, the new discovery gives archaeologists a chance to reconstruct a wider area of prehistoric London.

Featured image: Imaginative depiction of the Stone Age, by  Viktor Vasnetsov

By April Holloway

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