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Europe's biggest archaeological dig begins along HS2 route

(buckinghamshire) archaeology sifting

Archaeologists working as part of the High Speed 2 (HS2) project have begun the largest archaeological dig in Europe. 

The 241km HS2 route is to become the largest archaeological dig in Europe as 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators from across the UK take part in the enabling works.  

Sixty sites of interest set across 10,000 years of British History have been marked along the future route of HS2, ranging from the Prehistoric and Roman Britain to the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, and the Industrial Revolution and World War Two.  

HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: “How we build HS2 is as important to us as what we are building, and we are committed to sharing as much of our cultural heritage as possible.

“This is the largest archaeological exploration ever in Britain, employing a record number of skilled archaeologists and heritage specialists from across the UK and beyond.”

cgi of rebuilt st. mary's church, stoke mandeville

CGI of a rebuilt St. Mary’s church, Stoke Mandeville

CGI of a rebuilt st. mary’s church, stoke mandeville

Early finds on the project include prehistoric tools in Buckinghamshire, medieval pottery in Stoke Mandeville and two Victorian time capsules. 

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson, said this was a unique presented a opportunity:   

“With the building of HS2 comes a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our understanding of how people have shaped England’s landscapes over thousands of years, from the first prehistoric farmers through Roman and Saxon and Viking incomers to the more recent past” he said. 

“Historic England is working closely with HS2 archaeologists so we can make sure that this opportunity is seized and we are advising on how we can get the best possible results from the discoveries.” 

A special four-part BBC documentary on the history of Britain exposed by HS2 will be aired in 2019/20.  

HS2 will also share the finds with local communities through a series of open days and talks and will create a permanent archival legacy of artefacts and discoveries for future generations. 

Highlights along the line of route include: 

- Exploring a prehistoric hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London 

- Researching an undiscovered multi-period site (Bronze and Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval) in Northamptonshire  

- Excavating a Romano-British town in Fleet Marston, Aylesbury 

- Uncovering the remains of a medieval manor in Warwickshire 

- Ffinding out more about the Black Death and its impact on medieval villages 

- Re-telling the story of a Buckinghamshire village through the careful excavation of a 1,000 year old demolished medieval church - st. mary’s church, stoke mandeville (see above). 

- Comparing and contrasting the lives of the buried population in two Georgian/Victorian burial grounds in London and Birmingham. 

- Discovering a WW2 bombing decoy in Lichfield

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