July 3, 2008

Skull Map

Andy sent me a link to an article in the London Times with an interactive Google map showing "several" of the thousands of skeletons uncovered in London in recent years. If you click on one of the darling little skulls that marks the location of an ancient skeleton, you can get time period and museum accession number. Some of the bodies have a bit more information. One skull represents a Roman graveyard dating to the 2nd century AD near the Liverpool Street underground station. A Black Death cemetery close to the Thames included 420 burials. The map isn't nearly as populated as it could be, but commuters could still think about all the bodies they pass by on their trip to work. This map was created to promote the upcoming exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, Skeletons: London's Buried Bones. I would be interested in seeing the exhibit, as Americans don't generally display skeletons in museums (largely because display of Native American remains is strictly prohibited) and because the Brits are starting to use skeletons as storytellers - creating individual histories from all the data available, a sort of forensic archaeology where the individual rather than the collective is of interest. It's an approach that I will undoubtedly play with as I write up my dissertation for publication: using individuals as a way to humanize the past and get the public excited about dead Romans.

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