Introduction

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) carries out a diverse range of archaeology and heritage centred research projects every year. As a charity, MOLA seeks to stimulate enquiry and promote active discovery through partnership and participation and in doing so widen access to and appreciation of the value of heritage.

Collaboration is at the heart of MOLA’s approach to research and they regularly partner with a number of sectors, including the arts, universities, heritage, as well as the development sector and local authorities.

MOLA’s team of in-house specialists is one of the largest in Europe and covers a variety of fields including: osteoarchaeology, archaeobotany, finds , geoarchaeology, spatial data, geophysics and built heritage.

Central to MOLA’s approach to research is the publication and dissemination of its findings. The award-winning publication programme at MOLA includes over 130 titles, ranging from academic monographs to popular books. MOLA’s research also appears frequently in peer-reviewed journals, blogs and via the media, and all of its archaeological reports are publicly available via an online Resource Library.

To increase the impact of their work, MOLA also shares its research with the wider community through a variety of means, from STEM sessions for schools, public lectures and traineeships to exhibitions and through online channels, including blogs and social media.

As a professional archaeological and built heritage practice that undertakes fieldwork and post-excavation analysis on dozens of projects at any one time. MOLA has in its care many thousands of artefacts, human remains, collections of environmental and zooarchaeological material and excavation and survey records that form the basis of their research.

With over 40 years of experience, MOLA's experts effectively prioritise this archaeological material for research. Their current research strategy focuses on the following thematic areas:

Transition and change: pre- and post- Roman transition periods; population movement; settlement development; human responses to environmental change; human impact on the environment; the evolution of urban settlement; the archaeology of catastrophe; changes in human health.

Mapping the past: Using GIS and historic maps to track population movement; artefact distribution; historic and contemporary archaeology; people and places.

Defining a sense of place: Defining communities and identifying change; the evolution of urban settlement; urban hinterlands and suburbs; the fabric of historic towns; the archaeology of public spaces; characterising the landscape; cognitive landscapes; defining identity; death, demography and disease; gardens and designed landscapes.

Travel and trade: London as a trade centre; the Roman port; trade and the Empire; Iron Age and Roman rural settlement; the movement of people, goods and ideas; economy; production, distribution and consumption; artefact studies; comparing the ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds.

Ritual and religion: Burial practices; ritual buildings; the influence of religion on material culture; early prehistoric ceremonial and funerary monuments; identity; non-conformism; ideology, cult and religion; the movement of ideas; the ritual landscape.

Science and the past: Using new technology; realising the full potential of scientific techniques; science and the conservation challenge; presenting science through heritage.

The archaeology of inter-tidal zones: Hydrology and geoarchaeology; river systems as barriers, links and resources; the challenges of conservation in an active environment; prehistoric exploitation of the landscape; nautical and maritime heritage.

RESEARCH PARTNERSHIPS

Working with a range of academic and non-academic organisations, MOLA has drawn together archaeological sub-disciplines, and developed cross-disciplinary partnerships. This includes partnering with universities, museums, heritage and cultural organisations, local authorities and the property development sector.

There are a number of ways in which MOLA contributes to projects and collaborates with other organisations, including:

Sharing archaeological data

MOLA has been excavating, recording and studying archaeology in London and across UK for over 40 years and has an extensive database of archaeological data in its GIS, covering all periods of history and types of material, from monuments to artefacts. Integrating this data into research projects has been the basis of many fruitful partnerships.

Sharing expertise

With one of the largest in-house teams of archaeological specialists in Europe, actively undertaking research on a day to day basis, the expertise of the MOLA team is the basis for many collaborative projects. This includes the georeferencing of data onto historical maps for the Locating London's Past project.

Citizan Science

Bringing together volunteers, heritage organisations or local groups, MOLA leads a number of research projects that are built on community participation. The data collected by local communities through projects like our Thames Discovery Programme and CITiZAN (Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network) project is a lasting archaeological record that forms the basis of research projects today and in the future. 

Contributing to great places

A large part of MOLA’s work is undertaken for the development sector as part of the planning process. Modern sustainable development emphasises the need to create great places, with which local communities can identify. MOLA has carried out research with developers to understand and build a sense of place, including the Temple of Mithras Oral History project

Access to archaeological material

With thousands artefacts, human remains, collections of environmental and zooarchaeological material in their care, MOLA works with research organisations to provide access to this material and expertise. The osteological collections and expertise of MOLA’s osteoarchaeologists played a central role in the Digitised Diseases project.