A new spin on underground art

The aptly titled ‘Below the Surface’ project brings to light all manner of objects found during the construction period. We’re talking almost 700,000 items spanning millennia. Think teeth, thimbles and tiles or cards, cameras and cutlery, plus film cannisters, padlocks from hundreds of years ago and Moroccan coins. And much, much more.

As part of the city’s artistic vision, each station features artwork by different artists incorporated into the architecture of the stations. British/French partnership Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel with the Department of Monuments and Archaeology were responsible for the displays at the new Rokin station in the city’s heart. With about 9,500 archaeological items showcased, repeat trips up and down may be needed to take in it all.

Escalators at with displays at Rokin metro stationThe Rokin station actually plays host to two quite long permanent displays, both presented in between the escalators at the northern and southern entrances. Each display is categorised. Food processing and consumption, science and technology, arms and armour, communication and exchange, games and recreation, personal artefacts and clothing can be found in the northern vitrine. While in the southern, display items related to buildings and structures, interiors and accessories, distribution and transport, craft and industry can be viewed.

Explore the accompanying web portal

Unearthed by diggers during construction, the items have been carefully catalogued, taking classification to the next level, as evidenced by the clever ‘Below the Surface’ website accompanying the displays. Here you’ll find 134,282 items with information on where an object was found, what it is, likely date range and, where available, its providence. The website also features an interactive online tour providing historical information on many items, some with fascinating stories to boot. Charting the history of objects from shells way back in 124,000 BC up to mobile phones from 2005, it’s a fascinating archive of life through the ages. Who would have expected to find a 1920s Egyptian inspired radiator cap among unravelled cassettes (remember those?), bits of broken beakers, buttons and a host of phone and travel cards.

Regardless of whether archaeology is your thing or not, there’s bound to be something of interest for everyone. We say dig the depths and see what you uncover.

Image: Harold Strak