LAARC VIP7: What is GPO75?October 18, 2010 Archaeology, Archaeology in Action, LAARC VIP, Volunteers
Anyone who’s been involved with our project will undoubtedly at some point have heard us say “GPO75!” And to answer the question above, what GPO75 is is the archaeological sitecode issued out at the site of the General Post Office (hence GPO) which was excavated from 1975 – 1979.
The location of this site was actually very close to where the Museum of London ended up (although when the site was started the Museum wasn’t officially opened!) and was situated on Newgate Street.
The site itself had huge potential as it was slap bang on the western edge of the old Roman and Medieval city. And it didn’t fail to live up to it’s potential. Excavated in several phases, the first investigated a huge North/South trench which ran through the whole site and then found the Medieval church and cemetery of St Nicolas Shambles. Over 200 skeletons were found during this stage including some with visible evidence of injuries and illness through their bones.
Each Tuesday during our project, we’ve got some of these individuals out in the Archaeology in Action exhibition and you can come and find out more about what these human remains revealed about the site and the people living in this area during this time. Our brilliant volunteers Andy & Chris will be at hand to explain how we carefully look after these bones once they’re in the museum.
The second stage of the investigation was able to look at the Roman remains beneath the church. This revealed remains of 2 rectangular Roman buildings which underwent several rebuilding phases.
As they dug down further they found evidence of burning caused by 2 fires; one during the Hadrianic period and then before that damage caused by the Boudican revolt. This earlier, Boudican caused damage seemed to destroy some circular huts that were found on site too.
In addition, it became evident that there was occupation before the Romans also as Bronze Age pottery was discovered beneath the Roman layers.
The site itself was one of the first of the huge excavations undertaken by the Department of Urban Archaeology that was set up in the early 1970s. Not only did it become an incredible important site due to the archaeology it produced, but it was also one of the first major sites where new, young archaeologists got to train and hone their skills. For the first time, everyone on site was learning all the skills required to both excavate and record archaeology properly, following written standards produced by the archaeologists themselves. These standards and the practices developed on the site led to standards being followed throughout the country and indeed, throughout Europe and further afield.
The GPO75 was worked on by a huge team, many of whom still work for the museum today as senior archaeologists. And so it proved to form a legacy from which all other sites followed. It’s a pleasure for us to revisit the pottery found from the site and share this with museum visitors. And we hope you think so too.
If you would like to be a part of the legacy of this site and help contribute to the upkeep of these collections you can join in during Hands-On Archaeology sessions. Click here to find out the dates and times of sessions: Hands-On Archaeology