Five millennia ago, when Stonehenge was just a twinkle in a quixotic druid’s eye, there were people living in what is now London. And that mysterious prehistoric past feels a bit closer this week, with the news that Londoner Simon Hunt has discovered a 5,000-year-old femur in the river Thames.
The eagle-eyed (and appropriately named) Hunt was taking his boat down the Thames near Brentford, as he does most days, when he spotted a bone lying on the shore among the pebbles and rocks. At first, he worried it was evidence of criminal activity. But after experts took a look at it, he was flabbergasted to find that it dates back to between 3516 and 3365 BC. This means it belonged to someone who lived in the late British Neolithic period, at the end of the Stone Age. The length of the bone suggests they were about 5ft 7in tall, but beyond that, it’s hard to tell much about the original owner of this femur. Were they male or female? Young or old? Did they make the most of London’s buzzing nightlife and street-food culture? We don’t know for now.
But what we do know is that, as well as being older than both Stonehenge and the Pyramids, this amazing artefact is one of the oldest items ever found in the Thames. Hunt is planning to donate it to the Museum of London so it can be admired by generations of Londoners to come.