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‘Tilbury Man’: A Mesolithic Skeleton from the Lower Thames

  • Rick Schulting (a1)
Abstract

‘Tilbury Man’ is the partial skeleton of an adult male found in 1883 during the construction of new docks at Tilbury, Essex, on the north shore of the Thames, approximately half way between London and the mouth of the estuary. At the time the find stirred considerable interest due to its depth of nearly 10 m, with the eminent biologist and palaeontologist Sir Richard Owen hailing it as being of Palaeolithic age, though most subsequent (and even contemporary) researchers assigned it to the early Holocene. AMS radiocarbon dating now places the skeleton in the Late Mesolithic, 6065–5912 cal bc. This paper presents the circumstances of the find, describes the surviving skeletal elements, including two healed cranial injuries, and places Tilbury in the context of what little is known regarding Late Mesolithic burial practices in Britain

RÉSUMÉ

‘L'homme de Tilbury’: Un squelette mésolithique de la Tamise inférieure, de Rick Schulting

‘L'homme de Tilbury’ est le squelette incomplet d'un adulte mâle découvert en 1883 au cours de la construction des nouveaux docks de Tilbury, Essex, sur la rive nord de la Tamise, approximativement à mi-chemin entre Londres et l'embouchure. A l’époque cette découverte avait suscité un vif intérêt à cause de sa profondeur de presque 10 mètres, l’éminent biologiste et paléontologiste Sir Richard Owen l'acclamant comme datant du paléolithique, alors que la plupart des chercheurs qui sont venus après lui (et même ses contemporains) l'attribuaient au début de l'holocène. Des datations au radiocarbone SMA placent maintenant le squelette dans le mésolithique final, 6065–5912 av.J.-C. en années calibrées. Cet article présente les circonstances de sa découverte, décrit les éléments du squelette qui ont survécu, y compris deux blessures crâniennes cicatrisées, et replace Tilbury dans le contexte de notre maigre connaissance des pratiques funéraires du mésolithique final en Grande-Bretagne

ZUSSAMENFASSUNG

“Tilbury Man”: Ein mesolithisches Skelett aus der Unteren Themse, von Rick Schulting

“Tilbury Man” ist das Teilskelett eines erwachsenen Mannes, das 1883 während der Bauarbeiten an den neuen Docks von Tilbury, Essex, am Nordufer der Themse gefunden wurde, ungefähr auf halber Strecke zwischen London und der Flussmündung. Zu seiner Zeit rief der Fund aufgrund seiner Fundtiefe von fast 10 m ein beträchtliches Interesse hervor, wobei der bedeutende Biologe und Paläontologe Sir Richard Owen ihn als paläolithischen Fund bejubelte. Dagegen wiesen ihn die meisten nachfolgenden (und auch noch die gegenwärtigen) Forscher dem frühen Holozän zu. Heute kann das Skelett aufgrund einer AMS-Radiokarbondatierung ins späte Mesolithikum datiert werden, 6065–5912 cal bc. Dieser Beitrag legt die Fundumstände vor, beschreibt die vorhandenen Teile des Skeletts, einschließlich zweier verheilter Schädelverletzungen, und ordnet den Fund von Tilbury in die spärlichen bekannten Zusammenhänge spätmesolithischer Bestattungssitten in Großbritannien ein

RESUMEN

“El hombre de Tilbury”: un esqueleto mesolítico del Bajo Támesis, por Rick Schulting

“El hombre de Tilbury” es un esqueleto parcial de un individuo masculino adulto encontrado en 1883 durante la construcción de los muelles de Tilbury, Essex, en la orilla norte del río Támesis, aproximadamente a media distancia entre Londres y la desembocadura del estuario. En su momento, el descubrimiento suscitó un considerable interés debido a su profundidad, de aproximadamente 10 m, lo que supuso que el eminente biólogo y paleontólogo Sir Richard Owen lo atribuyese a época Paleolítica, aunque la mayor parte de los posteriores (e incluso coetáneos) investigadores lo asignaron al Holoceno inicial. La datación de radiocarbono por AMS sitúa ahora al esqueleto en el Mesolítico Final, 6065–5912 cal bc. En este artículo se presentan las circunstancias del hallazgo, se describen los elementos esqueléticos conservados, incluyendo dos lesiones craneales cicatrizadas, y se sitúa a Tilbury en el contexto de lo poco que se sabe acerca de las prácticas funerarias del Mesolítico Final en Gran Bretaña

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