Archaeologists on HS2 route uncover 'astounding' Roman sculptures

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Watch: Archaeologists working on HS2 discover Roman artefacts

An "astounding" set of Roman sculptures have been discovered on the route of the HS2 high-speed railway. 

Archaeologists digging on the route of the rail link made the discovery at an abandoned medieval church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

They include two complete busts of what appear to be a man and a woman, as well as one depicting a child's head.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of a parts of roman statues uncovered at the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
The Roman statues have been preserved despite lying under the ground for over 1,000 years. (PA)
EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
HS2 archaeologists have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues at a site at St Mary's Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire. (PA)

A hexagonal glass Roman jug was also uncovered at the old St Mary's Church. 

The jug has large pieces still intact despite being in the ground for what is thought to be more than 1,000 years.

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According to experts, a vessel on display in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the only known comparable item.

Dr Rachel Wood, lead archaeologist for HS2 contractor Fusion JV, said: "They’re hugely significant because they’re really rare finds in the UK."

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of a parts of roman statues uncovered at the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
The remains have been sent to be cleaned and dates. (PA)
EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of a parts of roman statues uncovered at the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
The discovery includes historically significant Roman statues. (PA)

She added: "To find one stone head or one set of shoulders would be really astonishing, but we have two complete heads and shoulders as well as a third head as well.

"They’re even more significant to us archaeologically because they’ve actually helped change our understanding of the site here before the medieval church was built."

The archaeological finds have now been sent to a laboratory for specialist cleaning and analysis, including dating.

"They are so significant and so remarkable that we would certainly hope that they will end up on display for the local community to see," Dr Wood added.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
The site at an abandoned church was uncovered during work on the HS2 high-speed rail line. (PA)
EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY OCTOBER 29 Undated handout photo issued by HS2 of a parts of roman statues uncovered at the dig site at St Mary's Church, Stoke Mandeville. Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of incredible rare Roman statues and a hexagonal glass Roman jug, thought to be over 1,000 years old, whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville. Issue date: Friday October 29, 2021.
It's not the first significant archeaological to be made during work on HS2. (PA)

Experts believe the site was used as a Roman mausoleum before the Norman church was built in the year 1080 AD.

About 3,000 bodies have been removed from the church and will be reburied at a new site.

The sculptures aren't the first historical discovery made during the HS2 project.

In January, it was revealed that an HS2 archaeological dig had uncovered one of the best preserved 16th century ornamental gardens ever discovered in England, rivalling those of Henry VIII’s Hampton Court Palace.

The shape of what was once Coleshill Manor and a well-defined octagonal moat were originally picked up by air photography, during a site assessment of the rail route.

Excavations to the site, which sits to the east of the Birmingham section of the high-speed line, found the remains of a massive garden dating from the decades either side of 1600, and comparable in size to the Elizabethan gardens of Kenilworth Castle.

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