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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Thousands of Stained Glass Shards Found at Westminster Abbey

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Westminster Abbey glassLONDON, ENGLAND—Researchers led by archaeologist Warwick Rodwell have sifted through layers of dust and soot up to five feet deep in the cone-shaped pits on the upper sides of Westminster Abbey’s vaulted ceiling, according to a report in The Guardian. The debris accumulated for a period of 750 years, and large objects were sealed under the floors added to the space by Sir Christopher Wren some 300 years ago. The team members recovered buttons, coins, animal bones from workers’ lunches, a seventeenth-century tobacco wrapper, a medieval leather knife sheath, a fifteenth-century wood and leather overshoe, and invitations to the coronation of Queen Anne in 1702. They also found 30,000 fragments of stained glass dating back to the thirteenth century. The pieces of glass, which bear images of stars, flowers, sun rays, animals, and faces, were cleaned, sorted, and photographed at the stained glass studio at Canterbury Cathedral, where they are also being reassembled when possible, and prepared for display in slotted glass panels. “It has been the best jigsaw puzzle in the world,” said researcher Laura Atkinson. The attic space at Westminster Abbey will be transformed into a museum space accessed through a new tower, where the panels will be installed as windows. For more on archaeology at Westminster Abbey, go to “Built upon Bones.”

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