The modest piece of timber shown here and 5 others nearby are some 6,000 years old. They are, by far, the oldest foreshore structures in the Thames and make the Great Pyramid of Giza, at almost 4,600, years seem relatively young.
The timbers are only visible at the very lowest tides which probably explains why they weren’t discovered until spring 2010 (For further information see Thames Discovery Program.). Late Mesolthic stone tools were found nearby and pottery from the later Neolithic period.
For the moment, the function of the timbers remains a mystery. Some suggestions are:
At the time the timbers were erected, the local environment was very different. The Thames was still there of course but the river was much lower then and was not tidal at Vauxhall to the same extent as seen today. The surrounding land was marshy, notably Lambeth Marshes. This type of habitat affects the flow of water up and down the Thames. (The story behind St Anne and All Saints Church provides an insight on what some local people thought of the area before the marshes were drained.)
The second picture, shows the alignment of two timbers (the second can be seen poking just above the water). However, the timbers do not appear to have an overall alignment hence their original use remains unknown for the moment.
Not too far from the timbers, the River Effra storm water outlet cab be found. The original river was diverted long ago but still joined the Thames around Vauxhall bridge. There was certainly a need for jetties/bridges to help traverse the area.
Given the amount of development the area has seen, it seems remarkable that the timbers have survived. The fourth image shows some local people inspecting the timbers. Towards the top of the picture you can see an extension of the slip way slip way near Vauxhall bridge used by the amphibious bus.
On the morning of 24 January 2011, while local people were viewing the timbers, someone from the Thames Discovery Programme found an ancient flint adze pictured right. You need a trained eye to even spot such items amid the tons of ballast that make up much of the foreshore. Such finds are a timely reminder, that the foreshores of the Thames need to be respected and protected
Bronze age jetty/bridge
Some 600 metres up stream from the mesolithic timbers, there is another group of Bronze age timbers - some 3,500 years old. They were recorded between 1993-95 by a joint University College London and Museum of London team. The site was also investigated by the Time Team.