Archaeologists found the skeleton on the Thames foreshore near Bermondsey, south London, while excavating at construction sites for the Thames Tideway Tunnel.
The Guardian has already dubbed him ‘the man in medieval wellies‘, and the discovery that the skeleton was still wearing his unusually well-preserved waterproof footwear when he died has helped historians estimate his time of death as 15th century; roughly when Henry VII, first of the Tudor monarchs, was crowned.
Discovered by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), the man is estimated to have been around 35 years old when he died.
The fact that the boots were thigh-high make it likely that they were waders, and that the man probably worked in or around the river as a fisherman, mudlark, mariner or dock worker.
They were reinforced and had been stuffed with a plant material, possibly moss, to improve the fit, according to Beth Richardson, finds specialist at MOLA Headland.
Examination of his remaining teeth revealed grooves which Niamh Carty, an osteologist at Mola, says could indicate that he was pulling some sort of material – such as rope – over the biting surface of his teeth, adding weight to the idea that he may have worked as a fisherman or a sailor.
Whatever his occupation, he was very powerfully built according to Carty, and his bones show the hallmarks of a lot of heavy, repetitive work over a long period of time.
Despite his relative youth, he suffered from osteoarthritis, and vertebrae in his back had already begun to fuse as the result of years of bending and lifting.
As for how the man came to die, we will never know for sure, but there is no evidence of foul play, according to the archaeologists. That hasn’t stopped people speculating though!
“He may have been working in the river and the tide got too much for him, he may have fallen over, he may have been tired,” Beth Richardson – a finds specialist from Mola Headland Infrastruture told the Guardian. “He may have had too much to drink. We really don’t know.”
DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Become a DigVentures Subscriber and be part of great archaeology - all year round!Subscribe