Archaeological and cultural heritage investigations on the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Wessex Archaeology, 2013

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Wessex Archaeology (2013) Archaeological and cultural heritage investigations on the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


Spirit flask

The announcement in July 2005 that London had won the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games was the catalyst for a comprehensive programme of archaeological excavation, building recording and photographic survey undertaken on the site of the Olympic Park. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has facilitated a rare opportunity to study and understand the evolution of a large area of valley landscape on the eastern fringes of London, before the construction of the main Olympic Stadium, numerous other venues and the necessary transport network throughout the Olympic Park.

Important evidence for landscape evolution from the pre-Holocene onwards was obtained from extensive study of cores from over 4,000 boreholes, enabling a deposit model of the sub-surface sediments to be created. The surface topography has been mapped and the courses of the major palaeochannels identified, as well as probable areas of wetland and higher, drier areas suitable for occupation. This work has been undertaken in conjunction with an extensive programme of radiocarbon dating and palaeoenvironmental analysis.

Archaeological finds include a Neolithic axe found beside a channel, the remnants of Bronze Age field systems and settlements, and Iron Age settlements with roundhouses, pits and associated structures. Limited archaeological evidence for Roman, Saxon and medieval occupation of this floodplain environment was uncovered but environmental data indicate activity in the wider landscape during these periods. One of the largest finds was a near-complete 19th century wooden boat which amongst other uses had been employed as a fowling vessel; bird shot was found during the excavation and cleaning of the boat.

The excavations revealed a cobbled Victorian street and buildings, and associated industrial features, that had been buried under several metres of made ground. In fact, a dominant archaeological feature from the site is the deep made-ground, averaging c. 4.5 m thick, that overlay the former agricultural landscape, both to consolidate the ground for the construction of factories and to raise its levels above the floodwaters of the, by now, wholly canalised and controlled channels of the River Lea. Preliminary examination of these deposits, which were encountered in almost all of the archaeological trenches, indicates a substantial quantity of material was deposited on the site from the 19th century onwards.

The reports available here are detailed specialist reports, summaries of which are available in the published report (A.B. Powell (2012) By River, Fields and Factories: The Making of the Lower Lea Valley – archaeological and cultural heritage investigations on the site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Wessex Archeology report 29).

Project Background

The project was undertaken in a number of phases by different archaeological contractors. The Project Design for Archaeology and Built Heritage defined five key phases of work associated with the construction of the Olympic Park, as follows:

  • Phase 1: Detailed desk-based assessments (DDBAs) of each of the 15 PDZs, including the formulation of Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs) and Method Statements (undertaken by Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS, now MoLA) and PreConstruct Archaeology (PCA);
  • Phase 2: Field evaluation, including built heritage recording, and assessment reporting (undertaken by MoLAS-PCA; and RPS Planning and Development and AOC Archaeology Group).
  • Phase 3a: Archaeological mitigation fieldwork, detailed sampling, analysis assessment and reporting (MoLAS-PCA; RPS Planning and Development and AOC Archaeology Group; and London Development Agency);
  • Phase 3b: Site-wide geoarchaeological/environmental assessment and analysis reporting (Wessex Archaeology);
  • Phase 4: Site-wide integrated post-excavation assessment and updated project design report (SWIPEA) (Wessex Archaeology);
  • Phase 5: Post-excavation analysis and publication/dissemination (Wessex Archaeology).

A trench concordance list is available to facilitate reference between these reports and the original archive which is deposited with the London Archaeological Archive and Resource Centre (LAARC).