Archaeologists in Buckinghamshire working on the HS2 project have uncovered a set of rare Roman statues whilst excavating a Norman Church in Stoke Mandeville.
For us to end the dig with these utterly astounding finds is beyond exciting – Dr Rachel Wood
In the final stages of the excavation at the old St Mary’s Norman church site 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 that are stylistically Roman. Two of the busts comprise a head and torso split before deposition, and the other just the head. The two complete statues appear to be one female adult and one male adult, with a different head of a child.
The discovery of these unique artefacts caused excitement amongst the team working on the site, who described it as “uniquely remarkable for us as archaeologists”. HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor, Fusion JV, and their archaeological contactor, L-P Archaeology, has carried out the work.
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. Archaeologists working at the site could remove what they believe to be almost all of the fragments. The team can only find one comparison for this, a completely intact vessel that 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, the 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.”