Archaeological discoveries which shed light on the life and times of William Shakespeare are showcased in a new free to access virtual exhibition
Extensive evidence of the personal possessions, diet and the leisure activities of Shakespeare, his family and the inhabitants of New Place were recovered during the archaeological investigations, revolutionising what we understand about his day-to-day life
William Mitchel, Centre of Archaeology
3D-scanned artefacts recovered from the site of the Bard’s family home New Place feature in Searching for Shakespeare, an online museum exhibition curated by the Centre of Archaeology at Staffordshire University in collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Archaeologists from Staffordshire University carried out excavations of the site in Stratford-Upon-Avon between 2010 and 2016.
Nic Fulcher, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's New Place project manager, explained: “Given the fact that New Place was actually demolished twice (it was finally taken down in 1759) and that much of the material would have been re-purposed in other homes, expectations were not initially high, but as the soil was removed - and carefully sifted by hand - the lay out of the property started to emerge along with remnants of objects from the past.”
William Mitchell, from the Centre of Archaeology, added: “Extensive evidence of the personal possessions, diet and the leisure activities of Shakespeare, his family and the inhabitants of New Place were recovered during the archaeological investigations, revolutionising what we understand about his day-to-day life.”
The objects in the exhibition, ranging from iron age pottery to medieval dice and buttons, have been scanned using structured light 3D scanners. This process enables the production of 3D models of objects which can be viewed, rotated and interacted with online.
The recovered artefacts, some of which may have belonged to Shakespeare himself, are presently stored in the archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, remaining inaccessible to researchers and the wider public.
“By curating this online exhibition of 3D archaeological artefacts, we have been able to give people the opportunity to access and explore the results of our many years of research at the former site of William Shakespeare’s home.” William commented.
“It allows people to continue their enjoyment and understanding of archaeology and Shakespeare at a time when museums across the country are physically shut to the public.”
The participatory and interactive database presents only some of the artefacts recovered from the New Place excavations and the Centre of Archaeology hope to digitise the entire collection in future.
William added: “The process is time consuming and costly, and as such we can only present a small number of the recovered artefacts. Planned future work in this area will look at accelerating the process and providing the opportunities and stimulus for more museum and archaeological researchers to create their own online exhibitions.”
Explore the Searching for Shakespeare exhibition online here. William Mitchell has also written in The Conversation about what the archaeological excavations have revealed about Shakespeare’s interests, attitudes and motivations.