Remembering London’s greatest archaeological discovery
This September marks sixty years since the discovery of the Roman Temple of Mithras. The 1954 excavation captivated public imagination, with an estimated 400,000 people flocking to visit the site over a two week period, queuing for hours along the streets of the City of London to glimpse the remains.
To capture this historic event, whilst it is still in living memory, Bloomberg and MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) are undertaking an oral history project, collecting and celebrating the experiences of the people that went to marvel as the temple was exposed. Anyone who visited the site in 1954 is urged to contact us to share their memories.
A trial for the project has already revealed fascinating stories. A ticket has come to light that appears to have been created by the construction company working on site, granting access for members of the public to visit the site and perhaps even have a go at digging.
One interviewee recalls: ‘There was a fascinating atmosphere there. I did enjoy it and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It was a mystic feeling because there was a lot of worship that had gone on there and strange happenings. You felt that you were actually living with them, close to them… When you walked off the site you came into the 20th century.
The oral histories will form a permanent educational and research collection, also encompassing photography and ephemera relating to the discovery.
Sophie Jackson, MOLA archaeologist, said: ‘The discovery of the Temple of Mithras fascinated the public and nearly 400,000 people visited. We are undertaking this project because we want to hear what the discovery meant to people at the time and how it influenced their views of history and London.’
In the 1960s the temple was reconstructed 100 metres from its original location and in 2011 the reconstruction was carefully dismantled as work on Bloomberg’s new European headquarters began. A more faithful reconstruction of the temple will be reinstated in its original position, 7 metres below ground level in a purpose-built, public exhibition space in the new Bloomberg building, to open in 2017.
Did you visit the temple? Contact us!
If you are interested in taking part in the Temple of Mithras oral history project or have images or ephemera relating to the discovery then please contact us before the end of November 2014 at:
020 7410 2266
Published by the Essex Society for Archaeology and History