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The river environment
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Early settlement
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  Themes Homepage > Early settlement
The river environment
Early settlement

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Stone Age
The last ice age ended around 10,000 years ago and over the next two or three thousand years the sea level rose as the ice melted. By 6,000 BC there was no longer a land crossing to Europe. The barren icy wasteland slowly warmed to become thick woodland. The river Thames was wide and shallow with swampland on either side. Humans were still hunters, but were developing tools, such as small flint blades, to hunt and skin the deer and wild boar which inhabited the region.
Axe head
Axe head
Bronze Age
Between 4,000 and 2,000 BC the first settlements began to appear, with woodland being cleared to create farmland. From around 2,300 BC bronze implements began to appear, but most implements were still made from flint. Settlement close to the river concentrated on areas of higher ground which were less liable to flooding. Islands provided protection from attack and sacred areas for burial.
The written record begins with the arrival of the Romans around 2,000 years ago. The river was still wide and shallow, with marshland to the north and south where seasonal flooding occurred. Celtic tribes were well established, but it was Roman technology that began to tame the river with the establishment of London Bridge, wharves and campshedding (protection of the river bank from erosion).
Saxon names
By 400 AD, the Romans had officially withdrawn from Britain, although their influence would remain for centuries to come, and many of their people had settled into the local communities. Angles, Saxons and Jutes began to arrives in waves from northern Europe, and the names of many of the towns and villages that survive today still bear names from the languages of the time, such as Putney - Puttenhythe - Putta's hythe or landing place.
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  Themes Homepage > Early settlement
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