Year 8 Visit to the Curtain Playhouse Excavation in Shoreditch

10th June 2016
On Wednesday 25 May, Year 8 had the unique opportunity to visit a recent archaeological discovery of Shakespeare’s Curtain Theatre in Shoreditch. Historical records prove that Shakespeare had performed at the theatre, in the days when Shoreditch consisted mostly of green fields. The students were introduced to Stella and Kelvin from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) who told them what archaeologists do, what they find and how the further they dig down in the ground the further back in time they are able to study. The archaeology team showed Year 8 different fragments of pottery found on the site, from early mediaeval, Tudor and Victorian times. Amongst the objects found were animal bones, clay pipes, money pots, beer mugs and plates. The students were given the task to clean some of the pottery relics which they had to complete with a tiny toothbrush, they had to think about which era the relics would have come from. It was a challenging task, that involved them looking at the different types of glaze, colour and the quality of the pottery. The students then visited the actual site of the dig and saw the archaeologists at work. They were uncovering the stage of the theatre and it was clear the builders in Shakespeare’s time had used animal bones to create the flooring. The students were able to see walls and art work that had covered the audience gallery. There is documentary evidence that William Shakespeare acted at ‘The Curtain Theatre’ with the Chamberlain’s Men, many of his plays were performed at the theatre before he moved to the Globe Theatre South of the river. The last activity for the students included digging to uncover artefacts using trowels and paintbrushes, once found the broken fragments had to be reassembled and the students had to try to work out what the artefact had once been. It was really tricky , but very exciting, some of the students thought it was like recreating a 3D jigsaw puzzle. All of Year 8 enjoyed the trip and learned so much about “uncovering history”. It put them in touch with the past in a very real way. Some of the dig site will be covered over next month, but a section will remain for permanent viewing by the general public.