Video | HS2 dig unearths rare Roman statues

Archaeologists working on the HS2 project have unearthed three stone Roman busts at what could once have a mausoleum under a medieval church in Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.

The archaeologists were in the final stages of the excavation at the site of the old St Mary’s Norman church when they made the finds. They 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, 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.

The work has been carried out by HS2’s enabling works contractor, Fusion JV, and its archaeological contactor, L-P Archaeology.

In addition to the statues, a hexagonal glass Roman jug was also discovered, large pieces of which are still intact.

Saxon pottery was also found in a cut of the ditch, as well as a Saxon coin.

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.”

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