The Importance of Archaeology

This is from an article in June’s Current Archaeology, by Sophie Jackson
“Revisiting the Temple The Mithras project
Back in 1954, Diana van Royen was one of the many thousands of people who queued to see the last weeks of the excavation of London’s Roman Temple of Mithras. This was one of the most extraordinary archaeological discoveries in Britain and it sparked a huge press and public response. Mithras fever gripped the nation, and the queues of people desperate to see the temple before it was destroyed became almost as much of a news item as the discovery itself.
MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) returned to the site of the temple in 2012 to investigate the surviving archaeology in advance of construction of a new building on the site: the European headquarters of … Bloomberg. With the 60th anniversary in September 2-14, MOLA and Bloomberg decided to capture the spirit of that Mithras fever through an oral history project. ..The aims of the project were to make a lasting and accessible record of this event, to try to find out whether seeing the excavations made a lasting impact on the lives of those who visited – and also to see if anyone had photographs or notes that could help with the new reconstruction. The response was amazing. Hundreds of people rang, wrote, emailed. ‘several sent scrapbooks, original photographs, and even finds form the site.
The testimonials are fascinating, moving, informative, and often funny, bringing the discovery of the Temple and this period of history to life. At a time when London was still recovering from the war, and rationing had only just ended, the Temple seemed to capture a sense of hope and pride in London’s endurance and continuity. “
Here are some of the contributions:
“It was quite grim going up to London in those days… so much was broken and still not being cleared away and then out of the bombing of that building had come really the miracle of discovering this temple… and from that point of view it’s not surprising at all it really caught the public imagination because here was something really exciting coming out of something really bad… to find something.. in a way… so intact.. you haven’t got just one end of a temple.. you’ve got the whole layout. -Diana van Rooyen, born 1939, former research psychologist and lecturer”

“In 1954 I was a 14 year old school boy… I knew nothing about archaeology.. I joined the queue of thousands of people.. then the walk around the site and I thought this was amazing, the discoveries were incredible.. then I got the thrilling opportunity of digging on the site so I went back.. and it was an hour and a half before I found the corner of a Roman well… this was my first day on what was to become a career in archaeology. – Peter Marsden, born 1940, archaeologist

And i a country  like Britain where it seems that there is archaeology everywhere it often takes an act of destruction to discover it. Much of what we have found is the result of digging tunnels etc for railways in the 19th century. It continues today.

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