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Archeology Keeps Secrets

Archeology is too exclusive and too commercial, and only benefits a limited circle of academics instead of the general public, according to Simon Thurley, the retiring director of the Museum of London.

Thurley says that property developers in London spent millions on archeological excavation over the past ten years, yet the vast majority of finds made in Britain remain unseen and unheard of by ordinary people.

Ninety per cent of the tens of thousands of finds made each year are never shown to anyone except a few scholars. ?If that?s the case,? he says, ?Why are we digging them up? It?s not a question of money, but of imagination and determination.?

Dr. Thurley wonders whether the cost of excavations can be justified when so few people see the finds. He called on archeologists and museums to make sure that excavated objects are displayed, rather than being hidden away in boxes and trunks and kept in dusty storerooms. He believes that archeology has never been more popular with the public. ?A single program [on the subject] can attract 3.6 million viewers,? Thurley says. ?The Young Archaeologists? Club is the fastest growing youth organization in Britain. At the Museum of London, the display of a single archaeological find, the Roman Lady discovered at Spitalfields, attracted over 38,000 visitors from around the globe in a single month.?

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