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Uncovering a layer cake of London's history

Crossrail Limited has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever seen in the UK, unearthing archaeological finds from almost every important period of London’s history.

Since construction of the Elizabeth line began in 2009, over 100 archaeologists have found tens of thousands of items from 40 sites, spanning 55 million years of London’s history and pre-history. The new railway runs east to west through some of the capital’s most significant historical areas.

The project has given archaeologists an exceptional opportunity to reveal the layer cake of history that is hidden below the city’s streets.

Years of research have been carried out to understand the impact that construction will have on the archaeology along the route.  Not only is Crossrail the most ambitious engineering project in Europe, it is also a catalyst for learning about our past.

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Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail

Tunnel archaeology carousel image

The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail is currently on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a major new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands.

The wide variety of items on display explores 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 free exhibition runs from 10 February to Sunday 3 September 2017.


Tunnel - The Archaeology of Crossrail - online exhibition

A new virtual version of the exhibition Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail at the Museum of London Docklands gives people the chance to explore the huge array of artefacts unearthed by Crossrail during construction of the Elizabeth line.

The immersive website has been created using a series of 360-degree panoramic images from the exhibition.

The online exhibition takes visitors on a journey along the route of the new railway, with photographs and footage captured during archaeological excavations revealing the stories of Londoners ranging from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.

Visit to explore our online exhibition.

Crossrail archaeology publications

The discoveries unearthed during the construction of Europe’s largest infrastructure project are explored in a series of ten new books by Crossrail, Oxford Archaeology, Ramboll and the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA).


The full series of books will 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.


Archaeology report archive

Crossrail’s archaeology programme has produced an extensive ‘grey literature’ library (grey literature is the term for content produced in the course of research which does not form part of the eventual published academic papers).

This consists of built heritage and archaeology fieldwork reports, desk-based assessments, and Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs). 

Visit the Crossrail Learning Legacy website for free, public access to the library of documents.

Archaeology at Farringdon

Archaeology at Farringdon

During the excavation of a compensation grout shaft in Charterhouse Square in March 2013, Crossrail uncovered firm... Read more

Archaeology at Liverpool Street

Archaeology at Liverpool Street

Crossrail is undertaking a large-scale excavation at Liverpool Street. Archaeologists are working to unearth up to... Read more

Archaeology at Stepney Green

Archaeology at Stepney Green

In January 2011 Crossrail opened up an archaeological dig at a future construction site for the new project at Stepney... Read more

In pictures: Explore the artefacts

In pictures: Explore the artefacts

Explore some of our archaeological finds in our online image gallery. We hope you enjoy this gallery, and this window... Read more