The "mysterious" skeleton of a man with leather boots high up to his thigh lying face down in the mud was discovered along the Thames.
It is thought to be about 500 years old and has been found with one arm above the head and the other folded on itself to the side.
Experts said it could have fallen or drowned and was quickly covered by the ground as it moved with the tide.
Archaeologists said it could be a fisherman, a mudlark – a person who washes himself in the river mud for valuables – or maybe a sailor.
The discovery of the skeleton was announced by Mola Headland Infrastructure which stated: "The skin was expensive and often reused at this time and experts believe it unlikely that someone would be buried wearing such a precious object.
"The boots would have reached the height of the thigh when they were completely extended, so it would have been ideal for going out into the river and through the sticky mud of the Thames, so they were perhaps waders.
"They were built to last: our conservatives have revealed that they were reinforced with extra soles and padded with an unidentified material (perhaps musk) perhaps to make them warmer or to improve wearability.
"This research suggests that the person was not deliberately buried and the clues also indicate that the owner could have earned life from the river, which could have led to his premature death."
It was found at Tideway's Chambers Wharf in Bermondsey, where excavations are under way to build the 25km "super sewer" Thames Tideway tunnel to stop pollution in the river.
The site is located in a bend in the river downstream from the Tower of London, near where the medieval wall of Bermondsey stood.
There is speculation that the man could have climbed the wall when he fell into the water.
Perhaps the most important clues about his life are the deep furrows that lie on his teeth.
They were caused by repetitive action such as passing the rope between the teeth as a fisherman could do – which could also suggest that he has earned a living from the river.
Beth Richardson, a specialist in findings at MOLA Headland, said: "Studying boots, we managed to get a fascinating look at the everyday life of a man who lived 500 years ago.
"They helped us to better understand how he could have survived in dangerous and difficult conditions, but also how he could have died.It was a privilege to be able to study something so rare and so personal."