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Crossrail completes UK’s largest archaeology programme

By Andrew Dempsey

Crossrail completes UK’s largest archaeology programme
  • Final books of Crossrail archaeology series covers 10,000 years of London history - from Mesolithic stone tools, Roman skulls and victims of The Great Plague
  • Largest archaeology programme in UK employed 200 archaeologists to excavate 40 worksites between 2009 and 2016
  • Construction of the Elizabeth line unearthed tens of thousands of artefacts and items spanning 55 million years

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 today and brings to an end to the largest archaeology programme ever undertaken in the UK.

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.

Final 3 archaeology books launched

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 The Great 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 at:

An immersive, virtual archaeology exhibition can be found at The immersive website uses panoramic 360-degree photographs to take visitors on a journey along the route of the new railway, along with photographs and footage captured during archaeological excavations.

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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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For further information contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email [email protected]

About Crossrail

The route will pass through 41 stations from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The Transport for London (TfL) run railway will be named the Elizabeth line when services through central London open in December 2018. The Crossrail project is being delivered by Crossrail Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, and is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and TfL.