Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Revisiting the Rose Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002
by Colleen P. Popson

Recent test excavations at the site of London's sixteenth-century Rose Theatre have revealed more well-preserved remains, adding to those discovered during office construction in 1989, which exposed more than half the foundations. The site, where Shakespeare staged many of his works, is often waterlogged because of its proximity to the Thames River, allowing for remarkable preservation of organic remains, including timber walls and drains, cherry stones, hazelnut shells, and clumps of thatch fallen in from the roof. After excavation, the portion of the theater exposed in 1989 was preserved in the basement of the office block in a matrix of concrete, sand, and water; but this was not intended to be a permanent solution. Now, 13 years later, the decision must be made to either fully excavate the entire site or completely rebury what has been discovered. The latter option would be an enormous loss.

According to Clare Graham, project coordinator of the Rose Theatre Trust, "The Rose represents our best chance to increase knowledge of how Shakespearean theatre worked. It is not only fully available for excavation, but it happens to be the best documented of the Elizabethan theatres."

The Trust hopes to raise sufficient funds to have the theater completely excavated, and its remains preserved and permanently displayed to the public for viewing and for staging theatrical events.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America