An Ancient Practice…
Although we find details of major past events in the pages of History books, more than often, we come across details… and, there are so many mysteries related to the River Thames! For long, researchers have been trying to find whether the river, the origins of which go back 170 million years ago to the Jurassic period, enjoyed any religious status. Some archaeologists recently claimed that they got the answer!
Many are well aware of the fact that the ancient inhabitants of present-day Britain used to drop various objects in the Thames as gifts in order to appease the God or to the souls of the dead in Bronze Age, and also in Iron Age. After excavating a site in East London, researchers recently claimed that people had built a Temple near Thames around 9th Century BC (during the Bronze Age) to pay tribute to the River! Archaeologists believe that people, who had built the temple, considered Thames as the physical incarnation of God or divinity. They have found hundreds of ancient artefacts made of bronze in that particular region. It seems that the ancient people kept those artefacts under the ground near the Temple for dropping those in the River Thames…
Archaeologist Andy Peachey – a Prehistorian from Archaeological Solutions, the specialist unit that carried out the excavation – said: “Our investigation will tell us much about Bronze Age metalworking technology, how the bronze artefacts were used, and their potential role in the belief systems of that time.” Peachey also said that it’s the largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London, and one of the three largest ever found in Britain. The site is situated near Rainham Complex in the London Borough of Havering, which directly overlooks what would have been a large area of frequently flooded Thames-side marshland…
This investigation is so important because it could prove that people used to worship rivers (as God) in the prehistoric times. According to archaeologists, the same practice was there in other parts of Europe, South Asia and East Asia at that time. Although there were few exceptions, rivers were worshiped mainly as Goddesses in the pre-historic period. For example, one can mention Ganges in India, Tiber in Italy (Goddess Tiberius), and Seine in France (Goddess Sequana).
There are various explanations of worshiping Rivers as Mother Goddesses. Also, there are ancient beliefs about origins of Rivers. The most popular one is that a Goddess turned another into a River after a dispute between them! As per another belief, the Goddesses came down to the Earth as Rivers in order to make lands cultivable or fertile!
According to the archaeologists, the wetland, hosting the Temple in the Thames Valley, covered nearly 60sqmt area. And, there was a 6m-diameter circular building at the centre of the enclosure. The building was probably a substantial north-facing square porch, facing the enclosure’s entranceway. Behind the building, or in the enclosure’s southern ditch (overlooking the Thames), archaeologists have found four pits (each originally around 1m deep). They also found 453 pieces, comprising mostly of very fine metalwork inside those pits, as those metalworks had been buried (probably originally in textile or basketwork bags). Interestingly, most of the items had been deliberately broken, as it was a common phenomenon in prehistoric ritualistic deposits. Archaeologists further recovered 38 sword-fragments from more than a dozen weapons, 146 pieces of bronze axes and around 40 fragments of daggers, razors and spearheads, and more than 100 fragments of bronze ingots. In total, the artefacts weighed 45k!
As per ancient tradition that had then prevailed, those items should have been deposited in the Thames as gifts to the God. Perhaps, the Prehistoric people used to keep them inside the Temple, and deposited them in the River during religious festivals! In that case, the ancient people might have considered the Thames as a physical incarnation of the God!
There are at least 12 Roman and Romano Celtic Temples in Britain, and all of them dated from at least 900 years after the Rainham Complex. However, none of them give any clue as to what the name of such an ancient Thames deity might have been. In literary works created in the 18th Century, there was a popular character – ‘Old Father Thames’. However, there is no concrete evidence that the Thames was worshiped as a God.
Old Father Thames?
People have been depositing various objects in Thames River for the last 5,500 years. According to archaeologists, it is not possible to establish the fact that the River was considered as God on the basis of this practice. However, the latest discovery at the Rainham Complex would certainly help archaeologists trace the religious status of the River in prehistoric period…
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