That was then, this is now.

Written by Ian Blair

May 5th 2016

 

Whilst thirty seven years separate these two photographs of the archaeologists who worked on two large excavations in the City of London: the GPO site (GPO75) Newgate Street, and the recently completed 80 Fenchurch Street (FES15), I felt that it would be interesting to compare and contrast. Ok, firstly, the differences.

Whilst colour photography might appear to have become more mainstream in the interim, hard though it may be to believe in the digital age we now inhabit, the days of hand-colouring photographs had in fact passed by 1979, although admittedly, colour images were all slide transparencies.

 

 

Group Photo GPO75 end of the south end excavation 1987THEN: GPO Newgate Street (GPO75) 1979
Front left to right: Annie Upson, Mike Lee, Jackie Harrison, Sandra Rose, Kevin Flude, Dave Stevens.
2nd row: Paul Herbert, Ann Guesin-Price, ?, Alison Balfour-Lynn, Marietta Ryan, Francis Pritchard, Ron Harris, Angela Simic.
3rd row: Gustav Milne, Chrissie Milne, Steve Roskams, Patrick Allen, John Schofield, Marie Barker, Lucy.
4th row: Hester White, Friederike Hammer, Mark Burch, Dave Bentley, Monique, Ian Blair.
At Back: Dominic Perring. Wall on right: Peter Cardiff, Lez Watson, Clare Midgley, Julie Flude, ?.
Photograph by Jon Bailey

 

 Site fashion back then can be best summed up as relaxed and casual, with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) still some years away from arriving and completely cloaking its wearers. This is not to say, that PPE is not an inherently good thing to have, but simply to say that its arrival has stripped its wearers of much of their individuality in many of the more recent group photos.

 

Fenchurch Street FES15 Group PhotograpghNOW: 80 Fenchurch Street (FES15) 2016 ©MOLA
From front to back and left to right in rough rows: Lesley Dunwoodie, Claire Cogar (PM), Tony Baxter, Rob Tutt, Stephen McLeod, Alice Marconi, Bonnie Knapp, Emily Dennis, Silvia Barlassina, Natalie Wood, Sean Russell, Jose Lopez, William Brittain, Fergal Nevin, Jorge Parreira, Kalliopi Themeli, Ethan Bradley, William Budd, Annalisa Rivoli, Sarah Trehy, Stefano Ricchi & Gabriele Domenico Impiombato

 

Interestingly, as the photos testify to, there has always been a very even ratio of male to female archaeologists on site, which is one of a host of things that has thankfully always set archaeology light-years apart from other construction related professions.

One of the nicest and most colourful changes in the past decade or so has been the arrival of archaeologists from across Europe and beyond, who have now settled in London, and taken up the challenge of helping to unravel the complex urban archaeology present on London’s deeply stratified sites. An astonishing example was to be found on the 80 Fenchurch Street site, whose exotic team included: American, Australian, English, Greek, Irish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish archaeologists. What likelihood of a Brexit vote amongst archaeologists on 23 June? Not a chance!

One thing that remains constant then and now is that each completed excavation bears testament to the incredibly hard collective physical efforts of all of the archaeologists in the trenches, usually meeting seemingly impossible to achieve deadlines, and their names deserve to be remembered as more than just a set of initials on a mud smeared context or plan sheet.

 

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