HS2 dig unearths “astounding” Roman statues

HS2 dig unearths “astounding” Roman statues

Phil Puccio

The work has been carried out by HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, BAM Nuttall and Ferrovial Agroman), and its archaeological contactor, L-P Archaeology.

In the final stages of the excavation at the site of the old St Mary’s Norman church in Stoke Mandeville, archaeologists were excavating a circular ditch around what was thought to be the foundations of an Anglo-Saxon tower.

As they dug down, they uncovered three stone busts which are stylistically Roman. Two of the busts comprise of a head and torso which had been split before deposition, and the other just the head. The two complete statues appear to be one female adult and one male adult, with an additional head of a child.

In addition to the statues, an incredibly well-preserved hexagonal glass Roman jug was also discovered. Despite being in the ground for what is thought to be over 1,000 years, the glass jug had large pieces still intact.

The team can only find one comparison for this, a completely intact vessel which is currently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Other finds include large roof tiles, painted wall plaster, and Roman cremation urns.

Dr Rachel Wood, Lead Archaeologist for Fusion JV, said: “For us to end the dig with these utterly astounding finds is beyond exciting. The statues are exceptionally well preserved, and you really get an impression of the people they depict – literally looking into the faces of the past is a unique experience.

“Of course, it leads us to wonder what else might be buried beneath England’s medieval village churches. This has truly been a once in a lifetime site and we are all looking forward to hearing what more the specialists can tell us about these incredible statues and the history of the site before the construction of the Norman church.”

Mike Court, Lead Archaeologist at HS2 said: “HS2’s unprecedented archaeology programme has given us new insights into Britain’s history, providing evidence of where and how our ancestors lived.

“These extraordinary Roman statues are just some of the incredible artefacts uncovered between London and the West Midlands. As HS2 builds for Britain’s future, we are uncovering and learning about the past, leaving a legacy of knowledge and discovery.”

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