Archaeologists on HS2 have begun work along the 240km route on what will be Europe’s largest archaeological dig.
As part of HS2’s enabling works more than 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators will be exploring and recording over 60 archaeological sites for the project.
Ranging from the Prehistoric and Roman Britain to the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, and the industrial revolution and World War Two, HS2’s archaeology programme is set to become Europe’s biggest dig and will provide an insight into the everyday lives of the people and communities who made modern Britain according to HS2.
warwickshire coleshill site with three maps combined showing a historical map over a satellite and li dar image
Early finds include prehistoric tools in Buckinghamshire, medieval pottery in Stoke Mandeville and two Victorian time capsules with more discoveries to come as archaeologists begin the exploration of our past.
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. Before we bore the tunnels, lay the tracks and build the stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological research is now taking place between London and Birmingham. 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.”
Highlights along the line of route include a prehistoric hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London; an undiscovered multi-period site (Bronze and Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval) in Northamptonshire, the excavation a Romano-British town in Fleet Marston, Aylesbury; and uncovering the remains of a medieval manor in Warwickshire
HS2 has granted BBC Two access and it will be documented in a new series due on air in 2019/20 presented by Alice Roberts.
HS2 head of heritage Helen Wass, said: “The sheer scale of possible discoveries, the geographical span and the vast range of our history to be unearthed makes HS2’s archaeology programme a unique opportunity to tell the story of Britain. From Prehistoric remnants and Roman settlements to deserted medieval villages, Wars of the Roses battlefields and Victorian innovation, HS2’s archaeology programme has it all.
“All artefacts and human remains will be treated with dignity, care and respect and our discoveries will be shared with communities in a variety of ways through open days, expert lectures, the BBC documentary and online. This is a very exciting time for archaeology in Britain and we are committed to make sure that HS2’s archaeology programme creates knowledge for further study, engages with communities and leaves behind a lasting archival and skills legacy.”
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.
The archaeological investigation is expected last around two years.