Rare whale skeleton on display
Published 09/09/2010 | 14:03
It could stretch across the clockface of Big Ben and is almost the length of two Hackney cabs - this whale skeleton is believed to be the biggest object found by archaeologists in London.
Remains of the headless North Atlantic right whale, measuring 23ft (7m) long and weighing half a tonne (500kg), were dug up at Bay Wharf, Greenwich.
The skeleton was put on display for the first time at the Museum of London Docklands on Thursday.
Francis Grew, senior curator of archaeology at the museum, said: "This is probably the largest single object ever to have been found on an archaeological dig in London.
"Whales occasionally swim into the Thames, and there are historical accounts of the enormous public excitement they engendered.
"To have found a skeleton, which just possibly might be linked with one of those sightings, is quite incredible."
The skeleton will be eventually transported to the Natural History Museum, where it will be carbon-dated and used by researchers to understand more about this endangered species.
Scientists can use the bones to extract DNA and stable isotopes, which can provide information about genetic diversity, distribution in the ocean and feeding strategies.
Richard Sabin, of the Natural History Museum, said: "Although once common in British waters, North Atlantic right whales are now endangered making this discovery particularly fascinating, as it offers us a snapshot into the past of these amazing mammals, whilst providing a valuable scientific resource for contemporary zoological studies."