• Kate Smith

A resident of London (400,000 BC)

Updated: Feb 18, 2018

The Museum of London's London before London gallery takes us back to the very dawn of history.

The Swanscombe skull belonged to a young woman in her 20s who was a relative of modern humans, possibly a Neanderthal. Her skull is now at the Natural History Museum but not on display. At the Museum of London you can see a replica, and the remains of some animals, including an auroch, which inhabited her world.

The London she knew would be utterly unrecognisable to us - a temperate river valley filled with now-extinct creatures like the straight-tusked elephant, creatures now only found in Sub-Saharan Africa, like rhinoceroses and large fallow deer.

She would have been part of a Nomadic hunting and gathering band made up of 15 or 20 people from one or more related families. It's likely that there would have been a very high death rate among children. Surviving that dangerous age, her life was still very short by our standards.

Gravel from Swanscombe was used to build Mulberry harbours off Normandy in the run up to D-Day - this may be the resting place of her other remains.

Extract from a Youth Map of London - covering the lives of young people in London from pre-history to modern times. As well as covering collections in the Museum of London, it encouraged readers to explore collections across many smaller and often local London museums.

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