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8,000 years of human history on display at the Museum of London Docklands

8 February 2017

Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail

Museum of London Docklands

Friday 10 February – Sunday 3 September 2017

In partnership with Crossrail Limited

FREE exhibition

The Museum of London Docklands revealed more exceptional objects about to go on display at upcoming major exhibition, Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, which opens 10 February 2017. The exhibition charts a journey under London, following the Elizabeth line from East to West, uncovering the archaeological discoveries found beneath the city streets.

Since work began in 2009, the Crossrail project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programmes in the UK, uncovering tens of thousands of artefacts which shine a light on almost every important period of the Capital’s history. Tunnels were dug deep beneath some of London’s busiest streets so as not to disturb important foundations, however, when these tunnels reached the surface, an opportunity arose to uncover layers of London’s history. The majority of these objects, along with thousands of records, images and plans are now part of the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive.

500 of the most exciting objects will be on display, exploring 8,000 years of human history and revealing the stories of Londoners ranging from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665. Finds were discovered in locations as diverse as suburban Plumstead in the south east, through Canary Wharf, across to Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road and ending in Westbourne Park and Acton.

Jackie Keily, Senior Curator of Prehistory and Roman at the Museum of London, said:

“This has been an amazing exhibition to curate. It touches on the whole story of London from prehistory all the way to the 20th century. It’s fantastic that within a year of the archaeological excavations ending we have been able to put on this exhibition showcasing the best of those discoveries. We have worked closely with Crossrail and their partners to draw out the most interesting artefacts and stories.”

Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist, said:

“The construction of London’s newest railway, underneath the streets of one of Europe’s most historic and complex cities, has resulted in one of Britain’s biggest archaeology programmes. For the very first time a full range of artefacts and items will be on display together, letting us tell the story of people who have lived in the Capital for almost 10,000 years.”

Further objects revealed:

  • Victorian chamber pot found near Stepney Green, this rather comical chamber pot would have been kept in people’s bedrooms so they would have been able to go to the toilet in the night at a time when most homes didn’t have an indoor toilet.
  • Human remains found near Liverpool Street on the site of the New Churchyard, also known as the Old Bethlehem Burying Ground, or Bedlam. A mass grave was uncovered containing 42 individuals. It is thought to have been dug during one of the outbreaks of plague in the 16th or 17th century. Five of the individuals have tested positive for the plague pathogen. This is the first ever identification of plague DNA from 16th-17th century Britain.
  • Roman copper alloy medallion found at the excavations at Liverpool Street. In Roman times the site lay on the eastern bank of the Walbrook. This copper-alloy object may look like a coin but it is a very rare medallion of the Emperor Philip I. It was issued to mark the New Year celebrations in AD 245 and is only the second example ever found in Europe and the first from an archaeological excavation.
  • Crosse and Blackwell jars found near Tottenham Court Road. Over 13,000 vessels were found, dumped in a cistern when the factory was rebuilt.

As well as showcasing these archaeological wonders discovered under Londoners’ feet, there will also be a chance for families and children to engage with the objects on display through a range of interactives and activities throughout the exhibition.

Crossrail has also released its new book, Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, which explores in more detail the huge range of discoveries found along the route of this new railway.


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About The Museum of London Docklands

The Museum of London Docklands is located at West India Quay in east London. Opened in 2003, this grade one listed converted Georgian sugar warehouse specifically tells the story of the port, river and city – focusing on trade, migration and commerce in London.

The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm and is FREE to all, and you can explore the Museum of London Docklands with collections online – home to 90,000 objects with more being added.