Friday, August 9, 2013


Work on new railway line digs up London history

Striking pay dirt:Skeletons from what is understood to be a mass grave for victims of the Black Death under Charterhouse Square in central London uncovered by excavations for a railway tummel in March.— Photo: AFP
Striking pay dirt:Skeletons from what is understood to be a mass grave for victims of the Black Death under Charterhouse Square in central London uncovered by excavations for a railway tummel in March.— Photo: AFP
Jewellery, pieces of ships, medieval ice skates, centuries-old skulls some incredible pieces of London’s history aren’t in museums, but underground.
More often than not, they stay there, but work on a new railway line under the British capital is bringing centuries of that buried history to light.
The 118-km £14.8-billion Crossrail line, due to open in 2018, will run across London from west to east, with a central 21-km section underground. That has meant tunnelling beneath some of the city’s oldest, most densely populated sections.
In the city’s busy business core, archaeologists have struck pay dirt, uncovering everything from a chunk of Roman road to dozens of 2,000-year-old horseshoes, some golden 17th-century bling and the bones belonging to a few of the 20,000 people interred in a burial ground established in the 16th century.
The 2,000-year history of London goes deep 5 to 6 meters deep, the distance between today’s street level and sidewalks in Roman times.
Archaeologists have found everything from reindeer, bison and mammoth bones dating back 68,000 years to the remains of a moated Tudor manor house, medieval ice skates, an 800-year old piece of a ship and the foundations of an 18th-century shipyard.
Pieces of flint
Earlier this year, the dig unearthed skeletons belonging to victims of the Black Death, the plague that wiped out half of London’s population in 1348.
The latest discoveries include pieces of flint, some shaped into tiny blades, from a 9,000-year-old tool-making factory beside the Thames in what is now southeast London. It’s evidence the area was being resettled after the last Ice Age by nomadic hunter-gatherers.
Some of the archaeologists’ most delicate work involves remains from the Bedlam burial ground, established in the 16th century underneath what is now Liverpool Street as the city’s medieval church graveyards filled up.
Thousands of Londoners were buried there over 150 years, from paupers to religious nonconformists to patients at the adjacent Bedlam Hospital, the world’s first psychiatric asylum. Its name, a corruption of Bethlehem, became a synonym for chaos. — AP

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