A team from Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) has discovered London's oldest structure on the foreshore of the Thames just metres from the MI6 building in Vauxhall.

As they surveyed the foreshore in spring of 2010, archaeologists from TDP found six timber piles of up to 0.3 metres in diameter. Although no definite alignment or function can yet be determined, it is clear that the piles formed part of a prehistoric structure which stood beside the river over 6500 years ago, during the Mesolithic period, when river levels were lower and the landscape very different. Structures of Mesolithic date are very rare anywhere in Britain, reports Past Horizons.

Kept secret until it could be fully recorded and investigated, the site is located at the confluence of the Rivers Effra and Thames. Near the timbers, late Mesolithic stone tools, including a fine tranchet adze (a woodworking tool), were also discovered, as well as slightly later Neolithic pottery of two distinct types. The area, may have been a significant, named place continuing through centuries or even millennia. It is only 600m downstream from the Bronze Age timber-built bridge or jetty (c1500 BC), which hit the headlines in the 1990s.

Archaeologists from TDP made the discovery as they investigated the area as part of a continuing project to record archaeological and historical remains on the foreshore. With support from English Heritage, the Museum of London and the geomatics team of Museum of London Archaeology a detailed survey was carried out, radiocarbon dates obtained for the six piles, and specialist analysis of the artefacts and environmental evidence performed.

Radiocarbon dates taken from the timbers have indicated that the trees were felled between 4790 BC and 4490 BC. The three samples returned dates of 4792-4610 cal BC, 4690-4490 cal BC and 4720-4540 cal BC.

Details of one of the most significant ever foreshore finds have been revealed in the latest issue of London Archaeologist.