The gorilla was the most visible element of a miniature street art gallery, situated on the site of a building, demolished in 2008, which had contained elements that dated back to the early 18th century. When the building was demolished, what would we have learned from that period if urban artists had been active when it was originally built? And if the current building (and it's neighbour of course) lasts three hundred years what will future generations learn from today's urban artists?
The creations of urban artists are designed to be ephemeral, focussing largely on the subjects and concerns of the day. Most fade away, are removed or are replaced by more recent creations, but others - like the gorilla - may find themselves preserved by accident. Like frozen mammoths slowly thawing out from under centuries of arctic ice, these creations may give future societies a glimpse of how other beings once lived.
One website, Graffiti Archeology, has spent ten years grouping together photographs of graffiti hotspots in order to record individual creations for posterity and to show how these sites have developed over the years. Less an archeology, it is more a careful archiving of creation, enabling us to travel backwards and forwards through time.
Such sites - if they survive into a digital future - may prove valuable, but they will never provide the surprise of the unexpected unearthing of a historic treasure. This one is now going into hibernation, perhaps to one day play the role of a future prehistoric cave painting.