The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are the product of a complex history,
stretching back over many millennia. On a prominent bend in the
river Thames, the site carries the remains of thousands of years
of human activity.
The Thames settled in its present course in the Palaeolithic period,
470,000 to 13,000 years ago. People have always found riverside
landscapes desirable places in which to live, hunt, gather food
and pass through.
In its bend in the river, the area of Kew and Richmond has always
been a strong focus for human activity. The river and its surrounding
land offer not only water, but also a variety of ecological niches
providing vital resources such as food, clothing, tools, fuel and
When riverside areas are thickly forested or extensively settled
by people, rivers become attractive local and long-distance transport
routes - a recurring theme in the history of the Thames.
With constant human activity, each generation destroys or buries
evidence of those who came before them. Also, recurring floods cover
the remains of human activity under layers of alluvium. Because
of this, conclusive in situ evidence for early human activity in
the area surrounding Kew is relatively scarce, being deeply buried,
destroyed or sited underneath existing riverside development. However,
chance finds of isolated artefacts and features are fairly common.
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