A team of well-dressed, fashion-savvy archaeologists working on the new Thames Tideway tunnel super-sewer, delivered a crushing blow to the self-esteem of 500-year-old corpses everywhere when they uncovered the skeletal remains of a medieval Londoner and made a massive big deal about his dumb-looking leather thigh boots.
“Leather can be very well preserved in London, especially if it’s found in a ditch that would have been full of water, or near the riverfront,” said Beth Richardson, a finds specialist for the archaeological team from Mola Headland Infrastructure, a heritage and archaeological services provider, contracted by the consortium behind the Tideway tunnel project to clear out any badly-dressed corpses they find during construction and make sure that the tunnel doesn’t get haunted by leather-clad sewer ghosts.
What The Well-Dressed Corpse Is Wearing
The boots were made tough leather, stitched together with flax thread which had been waxed to make it strong and water-resistant. They came up past the knee and had no buckles, or other decorative features which might have made them slightly less of a heinous fashion faux-pas.
“These were very simple boots,” said Richardson, rolling her eyes derisively. “They are not fashionable at all, they haven’t got buckles or anything like that – they are just practical, everyday boots.”
She went on explain, that unlike a classic pair of ankle boots, these thigh-high boots are an extremely rare find.
“High boots are just not very common throughout medieval times, and actually [during] Tudor times and the 17th century as well. If you look at pictures or illuminated manuscripts or portraits, very few people are wearing boots.”
You Work All Your Life, Just To End Up In Bermondsey. Dead.
Because their wearer was found in the Bermondsey mud, lying on his side with one arm up over his head, it seems likely that he fell into the river to his death – although archaeologists reject the idea that he was pushed. They think it’s possible that the owner of such hideous boots must have had to be like, totally drunk to go out in public in them, so the messy bitch probably just fell in the river and drowned like the old dead loser that he so clearly is.
“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,” Richardson said. “He may have had too much to drink. We really don’t know.”
Analysis of the man’s skeleton carried out by osteologist Niamh Carty, reveals that the boots’ owner suffered from extensive degenerative joint disease along his spine and left hip. She was unable to rule out the man was not younger than 35 when he died, but believes it’s likely that he was significantly older. Proving his pathetic attempts to prove he still has it aren’t fooling anybody.
If It’s Any Consolation Dead Guy, I Kind Of Like The Boots
A life of heavy labor likely left the man in terrible pain and distinctive grooves on the man’s teeth, left by holding something between his teeth for prolonged periods, suggest he may have been a fisherman, used to dragging rope between his teeth as he fished in the tidal Thames.
Another theory is that the boots’ wearer was a ‘mudlark’, making his living by scavenging in the Thames mud. Mudlarks were a feature of London life well into the nineteenth century and their activities are described by the great Victorian journalist Henry Mayhew, in his classic London Labour And the London Poor.
The boots are currently undergoing conservation work, and there are no plans to publicly display them at this time. Similar boots have been found belonging to mariners on the famous Tudor warship the Mary Rose and form part of the collection of the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.