The bones beneath the streets: drifting through London’s Quaternary

David Overend, Jamie Lorimer, Danielle Schreve

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This article reflects on a situationist dérive in Central London, which mobilised a creative engagement with the city’s Quaternary history (the last 2.6 million years). The aim was to animate palaeoecological knowledge in the resistant, opaque and frenetic environment of a dense urban centre. This brief excursion into an alternative London is offered as a model for contemporary drifting that stretches out beyond our immediate situation to connect to successive geological and biological strata, reframing experiences of the urban environment through shifting scales and chronologies. The Situationists had declared ‘sous les pavés, la plage!" (under the paving stones, there is a beach!), evoking the playful space of possibility behind the veneer of the city’s systems and structures. This drift aimed to search even deeper, encountering spectral inhabitations revealed by the bones beneath the streets. The article argues that uncovering these hidden ecologies has the potential to counter the urban prevalence of spectacular representations of wildlife and develop an eco-politics of co-existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalCultural Geographies
Early online date5 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Nov 2019


  • Dérive
  • Palaeolithic
  • Quaternary
  • Rewilding
  • Situationists
  • Thames
  • Urban wildlife

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