Workshop 6: The archaeological contribution to Shakespeare studies

Schedule / Horaire

Thursday 24 April 2014, 9h-10h30.

Room: V106B.

Leader / Organisateur

Julian Bowsher
Senior archaeologist / Numismatist
Research and Education
Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA)

Julian Bowsher worked in the art world for a couple of years before studying Roman archaeology at London University. He then spent a number of years on archaeological projects in Europe and the Middle East – which included the excavation of a Roman theatre in Jordan. Since joining the Museum of London in the mid 1980s he became involved with the archaeology and history of the Tudor and Stuart period.

The discovery and excavation of the Rose theatre in 1989 was a milestone in ‘Shakespearean archaeology’ and Julian has pioneered its study, bringing together archaeologists, scholars and actors. The 2009 publication of the Rose and the Globe excavations (written with Pat Miller) attracted glowing reviews and won three awards. Further books and articles on the phenomenon of Shakespeare’s theatres is appended. Julian has published five books, over 80 articles, reports and reviews, and has written about 100 unpublished reports on London sites. Further books and articles, on a range of subjects, are in progress. Julian has lectured extensively in Britain and abroad and appeared on TV and radio. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society, and Member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists.


The archaeological discovery of the Rose and Globe, two of London’s unique ‘Shakespearean playhouses’, 25 years ago aroused great interest around the world, not least because it heralded the arrival of modern scientific archaeological work on to the new multidisciplinary ‘Shakespearean stage’. For the first time in 400 years we had physical evidence to the actual playhouses that Shakespeare and his contemporaries knew, wrote for and acted in. Since then, further discoveries have provided (in various detail) the location, size and shape of these buildings – often with evidence for rebuilding or alteration – and the spatial awareness of stage and auditorium. The excavations also revealed material evidence left behind by the people who attended and worked in these venues; management, actors and audience, such as their clothes, money, personal items and so on.

Museum of London Archaeology has a unique record in pioneering the excavation of these theatrical venues. No less than nine of these sites have been subject to archaeological investigation; the Theatre, the Curtain, the Rose, the Boars Head, the Globe, the Hope and the Phoenix as well as two of the Bankside animal baiting arenas.

Combined with documentary research, the archaeological work has illuminated many references and debunked many myths. This seminar hopes to address and discuss this myriad evidence and the numerous questions that have emerged.