She weaves his biography with threads of history — political, medical and scientific — and the tale of an up-and-coming New York City. Naturalists across the Atlantic considered Hosack a peer. Jefferson sent him seeds. An innovative medical practitioner, he was the friend and doctor Hamilton and Burr had in attendance on that July morning along the Weehawken cliffs for their ill-starred duel. Tireless and gregarious, Hosack was a part of that productive generation of the first years of the new Republic.
If the cast of characters Johnson calls up seems dizzyingly large, it is because everyone seemed to know David Hosack. He planned the Elgin Botanic Garden as an outdoor classroom. Every doctor needed to know plant remedies. That is where he planted his garden. Johnson underscores that Hosack created the first public garden in the United States, a garden with educational objectives. The largest and most spectacular excavation was launched this past spring in front of the busy Liverpool Street Station.
The new Crossrail route runs for 73 miles 26 miles underground through a metropolis that has been growing for centuries. With churchyards rapidly filling up with plague victims, city officials decided to establish a public cemetery to accommodate the overflow.
Faces from the Past
Because it was not affiliated with any church, Bedlam became the resting place of choice for radicals, nonconformists, migrants, and misfits, as well as the working poor. By the time the cemetery finally closed, sometime around , it was filled to capacity many times over, with an estimated 30, dead buried there. Carver and I are standing on a viewing platform overlooking the excavation. In the pit below, a team of 30 archaeologists in orange overalls and blue hard hats are brushing soil from the brows of skulls. Many of the skeletons being exhumed are believed to have perished in the great plague outbreak of , which killed 75, to , Londoners out of a total population of around , Scientists plan to run tests on some of the remains in hopes of learning about the evolution of the plague bacterium that killed so many.
What changed? Identifying the remains of individual people in the old Bedlam cemetery is next to impossible.
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Although some of the coffins had initials on them, tombstones were broken up and reused in walls and buildings when the area was redeveloped. But one set of bones that might be identified is that of Robert Lockyer, a populist radical who was executed by firing squad in He was buried at Bedlam with the biggest funeral the old graveyard ever saw, attended by more than 4, mourners.
Carver is keeping a special eye out for him. Isotope and bone analysis from a collection of 14th- and 15th-century skeletons unearthed during an excavation at Charterhouse Square paint a harrowing picture of life in medieval London. Many showed signs of malnutrition, and one in six suffered from rickets. Severe dental problems and tooth abscesses were also common, as was a high rate of back injuries and muscle strains from heavy labor.
People from the latter period, in the s, had disturbingly high rates of upper body injuries, possibly consistent with violent altercations that resulted from a breakdown in law and order in the wake of the plague. And yet London still seemed to be a powerful draw for country folk seeking a better life.
Isotope analysis reveals that nearly half of the skeletons tested were individuals who had grown up outside the city, some having migrated from as far away as northern Scotland. Few if any notice the iron grille set into the foundation of a former bank building across the street, let alone peek between the bars to see the chunk of limestone that resides there, tucked away for safekeeping.
Archaeological Events in Europe
It is the London Stone. What its original purpose was no one can say, although legend has it that the city will fall if the stone is ever removed or destroyed. Sixteenth-century antiquarian William Camden believed it was a Roman milliarium, the ground-zero milepost from which all the distances in Roman Britain were measured. It gets a mention in the plays of William Shakespeare and the poems of William Blake. For centuries it sat in the middle of the street, a folkloric landmark, until , when it was finally deemed a traffic hazard and shifted to the north side of the street, out of the way. There it has remained ever since, at first beside the entrance to St.
Swithins Church and later, after the church was destroyed during the blitz, set into a recess in the wall of the new building. Swithins Church, for instance, after the Great Fire in , he made a point of erecting a cupola around the nearby London Stone in order to protect it. This is the first known example of somebody going out of their way to protect an archaeology site in situ. Wren took rather less care about the substantial Roman ruins he uncovered while digging the foundations for St. Conyers also recorded the excavation of a mammoth a few years later, near Kings Cross, and was the first to argue, successfully, that the flint hand ax found nearby was of human origin.
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A pharmacist, coin collector, and amateur antiquarian named Charles Roach Smith cast aside social convention, put on old clothes, and dropped down into the tunnels to follow the workmen. Like Conyers, he observed their digging, took notes, made drawings, and salvaged whatever artifacts he could. Imposing segments of the original second-century Roman wall that once encircled the city can still be seen in places such as Tower Hill or St. Alphage Garden, or beside the Museum of London itself, where a stretch of Roman wall was exposed by the German Luftwaffe during a night bombing raid in Get your hair cut at the barbershop on the corner of Gracechurch Street and Leadenhall Market, and in the basement downstairs you can see an arch support for the second-century Roman basilica.
Much of the foreshore is accessible to the public and popular with amateur archaeologists and metal detector enthusiasts—hobbyists whose talents and energy Cohen and her colleagues have enlisted to record, monitor, and safeguard protected sites along the foreshore.
One of these is Queenhithe, an indentation in the riverbank just below the Millennium Bridge. First recorded in Anglo-Saxon documents of the late ninth century, it was used by ships well into the 20th century.
Here, outside the old city walls, in the dark mud that marks a former course of the Walbrook River, they make an intriguing discovery: an old cooking pot with the lid still on it, crammed with cremated human remains. Somebody had buried it along the riverbank nearly 2, years ago. Another 40 human skulls, possibly those of executed criminals or rebels, were found nearby. But the latest evidence suggests something different.
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Looking down at the dark line of earth that marked where the vanished river once flowed, with the murmur of London traffic in my ears, I found myself thinking of the opening scene in Heart of Darkness. Read Caption. Evening commuters descend into the Tube station at Piccadilly Circus, in the heart of London.
Excavations for a new subway line have yielded thousands of artifacts that tell the city's story from the Stone Age to today.