The Long-Buried 16th-Century Theater Where Shakespeare's Earliest Plays Were Performed Will Reopen

Archaeologists on site at The Theatre during the 2008 excavation
Archaeologists on site at The Theatre during the 2008 excavation
Museum of London Archaeology

Before Shakespeare performed his plays at the famous Globe theater, he graced the stage of another London-based playhouse. It was known simply as The Theatre, and Shakespeare staged some of his most famous plays there (including Romeo and Juliet). Plans are now underway to publicly unveil the site for the first time in over 400 years, Smithsonian reports.

The remains of the 16th-century playhouse were discovered in 2008 during an excavation. Now, the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) is working to turn the site into a public exhibition.

Floor plan of the exhibition
A floor plan of the exhibition, including The Theatre's footprint
Nissen Richards Studio

A reconstructed view of The Theatre
A reconstructed view of what The Theatre once looked like
David Toon, Lee Sands, and Museum of London Archaeology

Visitors will have the chance to view the remains of The Theatre through a window inside the exhibition, dubbed The Box Office. Other artifacts unearthed during the excavation will also be on view, as well as items loaned from institutions across London that highlight the history and culture of Elizabethan theater. The exhibition is expected to open in late 2019.

In the meantime, the process continues to be a learning experience for archaeologists. Just last week, MOLA announced new findings that showed that actor James Burbage, who designed the polygonal, three-tiered Theatre, also created a space surrounding the theater where visitors could relax during long performances. Shakespearean plays often lasted over four hours, and Burbage's complex was an area where guests could chat and stretch their legs.

"Shakespearean playhouses were melting pots of society, and whilst the interior seating arrangements reflected the everyday class divides, theatregoers from across the social spectrum gathered outside to eat and drink and mingle before a performance," MOLA said in a statement. "The recent archaeological excavations are exploring small pockets of these outside areas, and it is hoped that this ongoing research will reveal new insight and artifacts that will eventually be displayed in the exhibition."

[h/t Smithsonian]

Mapping Technology Reveals 'Lost Cities' on National Geographic

Lin uses his iPad to visualize scanning data of a crusaders' fortress at the lagoon in Acre, Israel.
Lin uses his iPad to visualize scanning data of a crusaders' fortress at the lagoon in Acre, Israel.
Blakeway Productions/National Geographic

Imagine what Pompeii looked like before the lava hit, or Mayan pyramids before the jungle took over. In the past decade, scientists have been able to explore human settlements long since abandoned by using a new wave of accessible technology. Instead of needing an expensive plane and crew to fly aerial sensors, for example, explorers can mount them on cheaper drones and pilot them into previously unreachable areas. The resulting data can tell us more about the past, and the future, than ever before.

That’s the premise of Lost Cities with Albert Lin, a new TV series premiering on National Geographic on Sunday, October 20.

Lin, an engineer and National Geographic Explorer, uses cutting-edge tools to shed light on centuries-old cities in the most beautiful places on Earth. Ground-penetrating radar reveals buried structures without disturbing the landscape. A drone-mounted remote sensing method called LIDAR—short for "Light Detection and Ranging"—shoots lasers at objects to generate data, which Lin visualizes with 3D mapping software. The results suggest what the ruins probably looked like when they were new.

Albert Lin and crew in Peru
Thomas Hardy, Adan Choqque Arce, Joseph Steel, Duncan Lees, Albert Lin, and Alonso Arroyo launch the LIDAR drone at Wat'a in Peru.
National Geographic

“It’s like a window into a world that we’ve never had before,” Lin tells Mental Floss. “It’s shooting millions of laser pulses per second through a distance of air. By digitally removing the top layer of everything above the ground—trees, brush, cacti—you’re washing away the past. All of the sudden you’re left with these fingerprints—experiments in how we organized ourselves through time.”

For the six-episode series, Lin and the expert storytelling team were dispatched to the South Pacific, the Middle East, the Andes, the Arctic, and other destinations. Lin explains that while most of the sites are known to archaeologists, they’ve never been so precisely mapped in three-dimensional detail.

In the first episode, Lin travels to Nan Madol, an enigmatic complex of temples and other structures on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. With the help of local researchers and indigenous leaders, Lin and the team scan the ruins and digitally erase trees, water, and forest undergrowth to unveil the complex's former grandeur.

“Technology and innovation have always been that gateway to go beyond the threshold, and see what’s around the corner,” Lin says. “Seeing these worlds for the first time since they were left, it’s almost like reversing the burning of the library of Alexandria. We can take the synthesis of knowledge of all these watershed moments of our human journey, and imagine a better future.”

Lost Cities With Albert Lin premieres Sunday, October 20 at 10/9c and resumes on Monday, October 21 at 10/9c on National Geographic.

A ‘Lost’ Viking Graveyard Was Discovered in Norway

LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images
LMGPhotos/iStock via Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, Scandinavian Vikings didn't send their dead out to sea on flaming ships. When someone died, they buried the body in the ground just as people have been doing across cultures for centuries. A recent discovery sheds new light on the Vikings' version of the practice. As Atlas Obscura reports, an entire Viking graveyard has been unearthed by archaeologists in Norway.

A survey leading up to a highway expansion revealed the site in Vinjeøra, a town located next to an ancient Viking farm. The graveyard contains several boat burials. While there's no evidence of Vikings ever conducting burials at sea in Scandinavia, they did sometimes load their cadavers onto boats—the boats just happened stay on land and act as coffins rather than watery graves. This may have contributed to the modern Viking funeral myth.

Among the boats, the dig team also found the remains of 20 burial mounds, including one that was especially noteworthy. The mound—which had been leveled by centuries of agriculture—once covered a mortuary house where a body was laid to rest. Archaeologists say the size and elaborate nature of the grave indicate that someone important, such as a chieftain or war hero, was buried there.

The house itself is no longer around for researchers to study, but it did leave behind a rectangular footprint, and a few foundational stones as evidence of its existence. By studying the grave mounds and boats, the archaeologists hope to learn more about a group of people that disappeared without leaving behind any written records of their lives.

Viking grave sites don't just tell us who the Vikings revered and how they treated their dead—they can also tell us what they did for fun. Ancient burial boats have revealed that some Vikings were buried with board games.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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