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Tales of the Thames - fact or fiction?


Mike Webber of the Museum of London claims (NCE last week) '. . . the (3,000 year old Thames) bridge is thought to have had a ritual as well as practical purpose'. Every television programme or newspaper article concerned with archeology almost invariably has the excavators imputing great religious or ritual significance to whatever they unearth. Why?

Is it impossible to accept the prosaic - that, in this case, the bridge (or pier/wharf/ferry staging) was built to get dry-shod across the Thames or out to boats in the river rather than wade through acres of mud when the tide was out? How do they know this was the extent of the tidal reach of the Thames in the Bronze Age - it was a very different river then.

And, seriously, if you were a Bronze Age warrior with a fine set of tools, swords and spears, which probably cost an arm and a leg to acquire in the first place, would you just chuck them in the river 'as a votive offering'?

What is wrong with the thought that perhaps there was a collapse of the structure when a group of tribesmen were waiting for the ferry and they lost all their kit? Or perhaps there was a skirmish or battle at the site, and swords and spears are the sole earthly remains of the fighters?

Geoff Matthews, county bridge manager, Notts County Council,

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