Recently I went for a walk along the Thames to the significant archaeological site of Queenhithe. Later that day, I saw finds from the site in the Museum of London, and I have had the privilege of editing the two-part report on the excavations at Queenhithe for the Archaeological Journal volume 172.
Getting to see the site and its heritage board was a treat, but so was seeing the 2013-14 Queenhithe mosaic. You are find out more abou the mosaic here.
The mosaic is an ‘archaeological’ medium – alluding to the Roman city – and a range of archaeologically accurate aspects of London’s history, highlighting its historic events, personages, architectures, vehicles, material culture, plants, fish, birds and land animals.
In addition, there are broadly accurate artefacts from coins to brooches – as well as archaeological inspired ornamental designs, incorporated into the mosaic.
In this way, the timeline charts the flow of the river through time from the late Iron Age to the 2012 Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
The format of a vertical timeline of course takes its inspiration from the Bayeux Tapestry, although it is widely deployed in a wide range of 20th-/21st-century murals.
A further striking archaeological theme is that archaeology was incorporated into the mosaic. Archaeologist Mike Webber led volunteers to retrieve finds of Roman, medieval and modern date from the foreshore and select finds were embedded into the mosaic: archaeology becomes art.
In a recent post about Brexit, I highlighted how migration and invasion, conflict and crisis are written into the story of London, but equally we need to be wary of visual soundbiting complex historical processes in fear of them being appropriated by extremists views. This concern aside, I thought this was a fascinating, funny and striking story of London’s past in a mosaic timeline. Artefacts and place are manifest in the mosaic’s design and materiality.