London Find: 500-Year-Old Skeleton With Boots On

unearthing the skeletons of fallen soldiers in the wars of the 20th century and discovering that they still have their boots on and in an exceptional state of preservation is something quite common in archaeology, as can be seen in the photographs taken during the exhumation of remains of Soviet and German soldiers of the Second World War in Klessin (Germany), but it is more surprising to find a skeleton from the end of the 15th century or the beginning of the 16th century, the passage from the Middle Ages to the Age of Discoveries, with the boots of leather perfectly adjusted to the skeletal legs.

The surprising discovery, made in the neighborhood of Bermondsey (London) during the construction of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, an important sewage system to prevent contamination by wastewater from the River Thames, was revealed yesterday by MOLA Headland Infrastructure, a project of which it forms part of the Museum of London Archeology (MOLA).

“The moist conditions of the soil have preserved leather boots, whose style MOLA’s Beth Richardson has learned is from the late 15th or early 16th century: they are simple, practical boots with reinforced soles that must have been reach the height of the thigh in its maximum extension”, explains Emma Bakel, head of the Communication Department of MOLA Headland Infrastructure, to National Geographic Spain.

The mysterious shoe skeleton, found face down in the mud of the Thames, with the right arm extended above the head and the other folded on the left side of the body, corresponds to a man who was possibly under 35 years of age when he died . Did he die falling into the water while climbing the Bermondsey Wall? Did he get stuck in the mud and die?

“During the excavation we have not discovered any graves, we may never know how he ended up lying there. Our human osteologists have not discovered the cause of death or evidence of any fatal injury to the skeleton, but some clues such as boots or deep grooves in the teeth, which could be the result of repeatedly passing a rope between its teeth, indicate that it may have been a fisherman, a sailor or a mudlark [those who scratched in the mud of the river in search of valuables; the high boots and raincoats were suitable for carrying out this clandestine activity]”, comments Bakel.

The Thames was a dangerous place at the end of the 15th century and was frequented by many destitute young people. This unusual find allows you to go back in time and explore the relationship between Londoners and the River Thames.

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