The River Thames, A Not-So-Secret Treasure Trove

Thames River artifactsIn the United Kingdom, British archaeologists have made a number of significant discoveries as of late, from the battered remains of King Richard III — found buried beneath a parking lot — to, more recently, a 14th-century burial ground for plague victims in London.

British soil is, in fact, full of traces of the past. And in London, one has to look no farther than the banks of the Thames, the river that runs through the heart of the British capital.

On a brisk, windy morning, Mike Woodham walks the water’s edge in search of things humanity has left behind. His method? A metal-detector that emits a steady beep, beep, beep.

“That’s a strong signal,” Woodham says, bending down. “Let’s give that a little dig and see what we got.”

Woodham belongs to a long London tradition of so-called mudlarks who populate the riverbed when the tide is out. Centuries ago, mudlarks scavenged for bits of coal, scrap iron or other items of value. Today, they’re essentially history buffs who scour the Thames for anything that offers a glimpse into London’s past — the Romans founded London on these banks 2,000 years ago. Since then, the Vikings and Normans have set sail from here. And the Thames was a major thoroughfare of the Industrial Revolution.

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