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Crossrail Completes UK’s Largest Archaeology Program

Archaeologists excavate the Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street.

The secrets of Mesolithic stone tool makers, mysterious Roman skulls, and victims of The Great Plague are revealed in the final books of the Crossrail archaeology series published Oct. 26 and bring an end to the largest archaeology program ever undertaken in the United Kingdom.

The construction of the Elizabeth Line gave archaeologists a unique opportunity to excavate normally inaccessible sites from almost every significant period of the London’s history. The analysis of tens of thousands of artefacts unearthed from over 40 sites across the capital has painted an extraordinarily detailed picture of London’s development and the lives of people who lived and worked here.

The findings explored in the three new publications include:

  • An incredibly rare snapshot of human activity 10,000 years ago, from evidence of stone-tool making in the Lower Thames floodplain
  • London’s original infrastructure project, a Roman road encircling Londinium, and the mystery of the skulls and people buried next to it
  • The bleak fortunes of London’s poor and migrant communities between the 16th and 18th century, during a time of civil war, fire and plague

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail Chief Executive, said: “The Crossrail project has given archaeologists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study historically significant parts of London. We’ve uncovered tens of thousands of artefacts and items spanning 55 million years and pieced them together to tell the story of this vibrant city and the people who have lived and worked here for 8,000 years.”

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The Crossrail archaeology series comprises 10 books by Oxford Archaeology and MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) that explore a wide range of periods and locations, including: historic buildings along the route; railway heritage; the development of Soho and the West End; the Crosse & Blackwell factory at Tottenham Court Road; the investigations at Charterhouse Square at Farringdon; Pre-historic East London; and the Roman and Post-Medieval remains at Liverpool Street.

The books are available to purchase through Crossrail’s website. An immersive, virtual archaeology exhibition can be found here. The immersive website uses panoramic 360-degree photographs to take visitors on a journey along the route of the new railway, with images and footage captured during archaeological excavations.

Archaeologists, future infrastructure projects and the wider construction industry can also learn more about the strategy and detailed work of the excavations though the extensive technical papers available on Crossrail’s Learning Legacy portal.

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