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Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail

13 September 2016

Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail

Museum of London Docklands

Friday 10 February – Sunday 3 September 2017

In partnership with Crossrail Limited

FREE exhibition

The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, will go on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a major new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands next year. It will open 10 February 2017.

The construction of London’s newest railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth line when services begin in 2018, has given archaeologists a unique chance to explore some of the city’s most historically important sites. Since work began in 2009, the project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever in the UK, with over 10,000 artefacts shining a light on almost every important period of the Capital’s history.

The wide variety of items on display will explore 8,000 years of human history, revealing the stories of Londoners ranging from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.

The finds include:

  • Prehistoric flints found in North Woolwich, showing evidence for Mesolithic tool making 8,000 years ago
  • Tudor bowling ball found at the site of the Tudor King John’s Court manor house in Stepney Green
  • Roman iron horse shoes found near Liverpool Street Station
  • Medieval animal bone skates found near Liverpool Street Station
  • Late 19th century ginger and jam jars from the site of the Crosse & Blackwell bottling factory near Tottenham Court Road station
  • Human remains including one of the skeletons found near Liverpool Street Station from the 17th century Bedlam cemetery, which aDNA has shown died from the Plague.

These finds were discovered in locations as diverse as suburban Abbey Wood in the south east, through Canary Wharf, across to Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road and ending in Westbourne Park and Acton. The finds will sit against a backdrop telling the engineering story of the largest infrastructure project currently underway in Europe, with key facts and figures presented throughout.

Jackie Keily, Curator of archaeological collections at the Museum of London, said:

"From east to west, the Crossrail project has dug through layers of London’s rich history, unearthing a wealth of fascinating stories and objects. The exhibition will take us on a journey from prehistoric forests and marshes to the marvels of 21st century engineering. It will include objects illustrating the human history of London, from Mesolithic times over 8000 years ago, to the 20th century. Crossrail has enabled us to discover new and exciting stories of London which will be the centrepiece of this exhibition."

Jay Carver, Crossrail Lead Archaeologist, said:

“The Crossrail project has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas of London. This exhibition will bring together some of our oldest and oddest finds, and help us bring the stories of 8,000 years of London’s hidden history to light.”

Visitors will be taken on a site-based journey, following the map of the new Elizabeth line, and will find out about who populated these parts of London and when. Offering something for everyone, Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail, will provide people with a fascinating insight into the history of London and a glimpse of what the future holds for this great city.


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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.