Enlightenment (Room 1)

The Birth of Archaeology

By 1828 antiquaries were a dying breed, replaced by specialist historians and archaeologists. But for the previous two hundred years they had collected books, manuscripts, drawings and artefacts from the past, and travelled the country studying ruins in order to learn more about Britain’s early history.

It was fairly easy to learn about medieval times because more objects from those times had survived, including religious artefacts, armour, books and buildings. Antiquaries also began to survey and map Roman and earlier sites, such as Stonehenge, in a more scientific and systematic way and to learn more about the earliest Britons. This knowledge, combined with the new study of rock strata, led archaeologists to question the accepted date of the world’s creation – 4004 BC – calculated from readings of the Bible.

Pointed flint handaxe, Gray's Inn Hand Axe

Pointed flint handaxe, Gray's Inn Hand Axe, about 350,000 years old

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