As the largest infrastructure project in Europe, it certainly goes without saying that the £14.8billion Crossrail development has broken new ground – but it is what has been unearthed by the project that has set pulses racing at the Museum of London Docklands.
The construction of London’s newest railway, known as the Elizabeth line, has given archaeologists a unique chance to explore some of the city’s most historically important sites. And since work began on Crossrail in 2009, tens of thousands of long-lost artefacts that shine a light on almost every important period of the Capital’s history have been uncovered.
They now help comprise Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, a major new exhibition in the City. “From east to west, the Crossrail project has dug through layers of London’s rich history, unearthing a wealth of fascinating stories and objects,” said Jackie Keily, curator of archaeological collections at the Museum of London, as she explained some of the features of the new exhibition centred around the findings of the Crossrail excavations.
“It 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 8,000 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.”
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. Prehistoric flints, a Tudor bowling ball, Roman iron horse shoes, medieval animal bone skates, and human remains are all on show as of last month.
Jay Carver, Crossrail’s lead archaeologist, said the opportunity to help create history has been warmly welcomed by his colleagues. “The project has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas,” he said. “This exhibition will bring together some of our oldest and oddest finds, and help us bring London’s hidden history to light.”