Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hitting the Roman jackpot

I hopped on the bus today on the Strand and opened the London Standard to this:

More than 10,000 artifacts and an entire streetscape have just been uncovered during excavations for a new office block in the part of London called "the City," which is where the Romans founded Londinium.

What's more, these amulets, leather shoes, brooches and other objects* have been preserved incredibly well since for 2,000 years they have been in waterlogged ground created by the Walbrook, one of London's "lost rivers." (Maybe similar to the way that bodies are well-preserved in Ireland's peat bogs?)

What made this so cool was the fact that I was in the City when I read this news, because I had just spent the previous two hours in the Museum of London's Roman Gallery. The museum itself is located next to the remains of London's Roman wall, not far from where what is being called "the Pompeii of the north" was found.

That's the thing about living in a land that has been heavily populated by humans for thousands of years...the past feels closer than it does in the New World; there is a sense of continuity, and a physical reality of layers upon layers. One can look at one's environment and see the evidence of past centuries. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking around inside an enormous movie set, but it's realHistory feels solid, material, instead of an being an abstraction, the way it does in areas where signs of ancient human habitation are rare or non-existent.

Combine all this with the exhibition on Pompeii at the British Museum, and it's an especially good time to be in London for history geeks.

*Including an amulet made of bone that features a phallus on one end and a hand making an obscene gesture on the other end. Both of these symbols were seen as good luck, according to the archaeologists. Oddly endearing, in a lowest common denominator sort of way....

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