Friday, January 23, 2015

Museum of London

by Anne Dinh

The Museum of London focuses on the history of London from its early beginnings to modern day. The exhibit begins with first settlements and continues on to Roman Britain, Medieval London, Renaissance, and into the 20th century. My two favorite parts of the museum were the early landscape of Britain as well as the Roman Britain period.

A view of the museum from its entrance. 

The landmass of Britain, located on the peninsula of Europe, was shaped by climate change and ice sheets. During the Anglian Ice Age 480,000 years ago, Britain was covered by ice. The weight of ice sheets changed the landscape and carved new valleys while ice dams changed the route of the Thames river. Before our trip the class discussed one possible explanation for the intermittent ice ages: Milankovitch cycles. This theory reasons that three components of Earth's orbital movement influence the climate. These components are eccentricity (elliptical shape of Earth's orbit), axial tilt (the angle between Earth's rotational axis and orbital axis), and precession (the orientation of the rotational axis). These aspects of the earth's orbit change in cycles on the order of 100,000 years, and cause changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth.

Temperature variations over the last 500,000 years

By 8500 BC, a warming climate allowed the ice to melt and gave rise to forests. The landscape was then heavily shaped by highly adaptable human communities. As the land became habitable, people settled in the land and coped with rising water levels by building wooden trackways across the marshy valley floor. Between 1500 and 700 BC, the areas near the Thames Valley were used for raising livestock and agriculture.

The museum continues the history of London with the rule of Romans over Britain. Around 50 AD, the Roman Empire established Londinium, which is modern day London. By 100 AD, this city grew into one of the largest cities in the Western Roman Empire with a population of 60,000. Roman rule influenced the layout of the city and the way of life. In 150 AD, the civic center was established with the forum and basilica as the focal point. The offices and shops nearby were built with stone rather than timber or mud-brick, and water-pipes were laid down. I really enjoyed the Londinium exhibit because it gave me a sense of the millions of incremental changes in the structure of the city and the way of life. 

This is a model of London's civic center in 150 AD with shops, offices, and houses around the central courtyard. 

This museum allowed us to appreciate London's immense history beyond the beautiful ancient architecture. Thus far, we've seen stunning cathedrals and grand towers. A peek back to the beginning of this country and its development through the centuries only serves to strengthen my love of this city. This understanding of early London also allows us to grasp the impact of scientific discoveries and how our perspective of the world around us has gradually changed.

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