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Thames Water Collection

A Viking sword dredged from the River Thames

A Viking sword dredged from the River Thames

All the objects in the Thames Water Collection were found during dredging of the non-tidal part of the River Thames, from its source in Gloucestershire up to Teddington Lock in London. It contains over 500 beautiful items found by the dredger crews between 1911 and 1980. There are finds from all periods over the last 10,000 years - from Mesolithic flints to ginger beer bottles.

The most important part of the collection is the large quantity of beautiful Bronze Age and Iron Age metalwork weaponry. Similar discoveries, from the London section of the Thames and other English rivers flowing into the North Sea, suggest a prehistoric cult of ritual offerings made to river gods. Finds of skulls from the river may indicate that this ritual was related to burial rites.

All these objects are in the Museum's collections thanks to an historic agreement with the Thames Conservancy Board (TCB) in 1932, at the suggestion of the then Honarary Curator of Zoology of Reading Museum, Henry Wallis. This allowed for all archaeological items found in this upper section of the river during dredging to be deposited with the Museum on indefinite loan. Thames Water, successor to the TCB, generously donated the collection to Reading Museum in 1996.

You can see some items from the Thames Water Collection in the Bayeux Tapestry and Green Space galleries in Reading Museum, and many more are on loan for display at other museums along the River Thames.

Reading Museum also holds other important items dredged from the Thames and River Kennet before 1932, or discovered by local sub-aqua clubs in the 1970s.

Date updated: 21 Jan 2015


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