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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 more than 10,000 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.

The finds uncovered so far from our work sites include prehistoric animal bones, Roman remains, human remains from the infamous ‘Bedlam’ psychiatric hospital and remnants of Britain’s industrial past.

Crossrail archaeology route map

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.

Latest news

DNA of bacteria responsible for London Great Plague of 1665 identified for first time

Scientific analysis of skeletons excavated as part of the Crossrail programme has identified the DNA of the bacteria responsible for the 1665 Great Plague. Read more.

Tunnel: the archaeology of Crossrail

The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail will go on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a major new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands next year. It will open 10 February 2017.

The wide variety of items on display will explore 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. Read more.

Sharing our finds

The Crossrail project has given archaeologists a rare opportunity to study previously inaccessible areas of London. One of the core objectives of the programme is the dissemination of archaeology information to the wider archaeological community, together with a focused education and outreach programme for local communities. 

Crossrail’s archaeological team will be producing detailed reports on their findings.

All the significant artefacts will be provided to the Museum of London and the Natural History Museum for Londoners to study and enjoy in the future.

Key points

  • An archaeological strategy (known as the generic Written Scheme of Investigation or WSI) has been prepared in consultation with English Heritage and relevant County and local authority archaeologists to ensure a consistent approach across the route and throughout the life of the project;
  • Crossrail is employing a team of archaeological specialists to investigate and record archaeology and to archive and report on findings;
  • More than 10,000 finds have been uncovered so far, spanning 55 million years of London's history
  • Only one of the more than 350 listed buildings along Crossrail’s route will be demolished;
  • Crossrail has entered into agreements with local authorities where works affect listed buildings.
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