Volunteers uncover treasures as they work on archive material

MOLA team

In 1992 one of the largest urban digs in the capital revealed the site of the ancient Roman amphitheatre lying underneath the yard of the medieval Guildhall in the City of London.

The exceptional site also uncovered thousands of finds, revealing insight into life and entertainment in Roman London and occupation through to the post-medieval period. Today the outline of the amphitheatre is marked with a black circle on the paving of the courtyard in front of the Gallery and thousands flock to see the remains that are preserved and beautifully interpreted in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Some 2340 boxes and tens of thousands of bags of small finds were filled during the excavation. These are now stored at the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), across 157 shelves and over 4 bays. A selection of the items is on display in the Guildhall and in the Museum of London’s Roman Gallery.

Thanks to a team of eager and tenacious volunteers, the vast quantity of archaeological material is currently being made ready for final deposition into the LAARC. The programme requires  meticulous care and attention from the volunteers to ensure each and every box and bag of finds is checked and that the objects are categorised according to material type.

Two of the volunteers undertaking this immense and important task, Jim (right) and Carl (left), said: “Sifting through the thousands of pot fragments we have been excited to discover the occasional treasure, such as the Roman ceramic head (below). We are encouraged to continue ploughing through the boxes in the hope that we will find more treasures that archaeologists previously missed.”

The volunteers are also working to guarantee the bags and boxes are not overloaded and that delicate objects are sufficiently protected with appropriate packaging. Each bag of finds must carry with it the correct standardised labelling, recording basic information about where the object was found on site including; site code, context number, material and object type and date and then organised within each box so as to be in numerical context order.

The excavation findings can be explored in the MOLA monograph London’s Roman amphitheatre: Guildhall Yard, City of London.

  • Community project
  • Artefacts

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