Cross­rail: an ar­chae­ol­o­gist’s dream

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have had some­thing of a bo­nanza with the cre­ation of Cross­rail, the mas­sive en­gi­neer­ing pro­ject to build a new 73-mile rail­way line from Read­ing to east Lon­don, as it has al­lowed them to study pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas of the cap­i­tal.

More than 10,000 ob­jects have been un­cov­ered since work on Europe’s big­gest in­fra­struc­ture pro­ject be­gan in 2009, in ar­eas such as Ca­nary Wharf, Liver­pool Street, Tot­ten­ham Court Road and Ac­ton. New in­sights have been gained on Lon­don in its days as a Ro­man port and on the Great Plague and the Great Fire.

‘Tun­nel: The Ar­chae­ol­ogy of Cross­rail’, an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­seum of Lon­don Dock­lands (Fe­bru­ary 10 to Septem­ber 3; www.mu­seum oflon­don.org.uk/mu­seum-lon­don-dock­lands), will dis­play items span­ning 8,000 years of hu­man his­tory. Stand­out ex­hibits in­clude iron Ro­man horse shoes found near Liver­pool Street sta­tion, a wooden Tu­dor bowling ball un­earthed from the site of a for­mer manor house at Step­ney Green and skele­tons from a mass grave at Bed­lam. DNA test­ing has shown one of them was a vic­tim of the plague.

The ex­hi­bi­tion also out­lines the story be­hind the cre­ation of Cross­rail it­self. Vis­i­tors will doubt­less with­hold their ver­dict on whether the chaos and de­struc­tion that have come in its wake have been worth­while un­til the first ser­vices on the El­iz­a­beth Line be­gin to run next year. Jack Watkins

One of the skele­tons found at Bed­lam was a vic­tim of the plague

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