London is currently digging through the ground to build their new “super sewer,” a $5.4 billion addition to the city’s plumbing system that’s meant to “capture, store and transfer raw sewage and rainwater that currently overflows into the river.” An unexpected upside of all the tunneling is the discovery of many archaeological artifacts, which a scientific team is on hand to document.
One of the most exciting remnants of the past came in the form of a 500-year-old male skeleton, found lying face down in the mud. While all skeletons are important to archaeologists, this one was especially interesting because of what he was wearing: knee-high, leather boots.
While the boots may be quite fashionable, the scientists aren’t interested in them for how nice they look. During Tudor times, which is when the man died, leather was an incredibly expensive product, so the boots would likely have been removed by the man’s family if he had died of natural causes. The boots’ presence suggests the man died on the banks of the Thames River before his time, and may even give clues as to how.
Beth Richardson, a finds specialist at MOLA Headland, detailed what the footwear may reveal:
“By studying the boots we’ve been able to gain a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a man who lived as many as 500 years ago. They have helped us to better understand how he may have made his living in hazardous and difficult conditions, but also how he may have died. It has been a privilege to be able to study something so rare and so personal.”
A mysterious male #skeleton discovered in London’s #RiverThames that is more than 500 years old has been puzzling experts because of its well-preserved medieval boots. Archaeologists from @MOLArchaeology say the man was younger than 35 when he lost his life. pic.twitter.com/U06L5svJ0b— China Daily (@ChinaDaily) December 5, 2018
The boots appeared to have multiple soles and what appears to be moss stuffed into them, perhaps for extra lining in difficult conditions.
Wow how fascinating! Looking forward to the updates!— sandra (@daisiemaetulip) December 5, 2018
By examining the bones, a research company has also determined the man was about 35 years old and has deep trenches in his teeth, likely caused “by a repetitive action, like passing rope between his teeth as a fisherman might.”
Why are there not more shows on Nat Geo channel discussing this stuff?— Don DeBrakeleer (@DDeBrakeleer) December 5, 2018
So interesting...wish I knew more about him. #500yearoldman— Jo Ann Fritz (@Daydreamriverco) December 5, 2018
Twitter was intrigued by the man’s mysterious life…
Amazing & very interesting.— MaryJane (@maryjaned51) December 5, 2018
woooooooow how did water not destroy it? weird.— Sky Articles (@SkyArticles) December 4, 2018
Drunks have been falling into the Thames since the Romans, I would guess.— Freydis (@FreydisUlfsdotr) December 4, 2018
Cursed boots! Don't touch the boots!— Kent Brewster (@kentbrew) December 4, 2018
This would be a dark but awesome commercial for whoever makes those boots.— Earl Gray (@1241AM) December 5, 2018
Of course, the boots themselves also got a shout out.
Post mortem chic— Alex Molina (@AlexioAlexico) December 4, 2018
The man couldn’t possibly have known 500 years ago that his death would help the people of the future learn more about the time he was alive.