Tribes of Londinium

by Purple Wyrm on January 5, 2010

Yes yes, happy new year all, I’ve got better things to talk about than what I did on New Years Eve (bugger all really).

I’m using some of my time off work to get some more of my holiday snaps from the UK up on Flickr. One of said photos is of a pile of the Hungerford Bridge in London, festooned with the broken carcasses of skateboards.

I presumed at the time that there was some sadistic security guard who enjoyed confiscating boards off skaters who tried to ride them across the bridge, snapped them in half then threw them onto the pile. However on later reflection it became apparent to me that it was more likely that skaters from the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall were deliberately depositing their broken boards on the pile as a sort of graveyard, and some quick Googling today suggested that this is in fact the case.

This is great. Why? Because it’s a complete throwback to the old, pagan traditions of neolithic and bronze age England!

Further upstream at Battersea there’s a stretch of river that’s yielded vast (well, vast for archeology 🙂 quantities of relics. Swords, shields, spearheads, that kind of things. The sheer concentration of them leaves no explanation apart from that they were deliberately thrown into the waters as some kind of sacrifice. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the urge to commit treasured personal possessions to the river that motivates today’s skaters is fundamentally the same one that motivated the ancient Britons of Battersea.

Even more interestingly this site compares the Hungerford pile to a neolithic mortuary enclosure – a separated, sacred space in which the bodies of the deceased were left to break down to just bones (which were then collected and buried). The author points out that the bridge pier is “an unreachable island in the Thames” – small islands (neither being exactly land or water) meeting the requirements for all kinds of sacred spaces. Great stuff!

Seriously people, there is a thesis in this…

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