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Archaeology: Roman statues found UNDER the site of a Norman church in Stoke Mandeville

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Roman statues have been found beneath the site of a Norman church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, in what experts call a ‘once in a lifetime’ find.

Archaeologists from the HS2 railway have uncovered the three stone busts under the ruins of the old St. Mary’s Church, which was demolished in 1966 because it was unsafe.

Two of the figures are adults – a man and a woman, whose heads have been split from their bodies – while the third is just the head of a child.

These ‘remarkable’ finds came in the final stages of the dig, when the team was excavating a circular trench around what was believed to be an Anglo-Saxon tower.

In addition to the busts, the archaeologists also found an incredibly well-preserved Roman-era hexagonal glass jug, large pieces of which were still intact.

Other finds from Roman times at the site included large roof tiles, painted wall plaster and cremation urns.

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Roman statues have been found beneath the site of the Norman church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, in what experts call a ‘once in a lifetime’ find. Pictured: a statue

Two of the figures are adults - a man and a woman, whose heads have been split from their bodies - while the third is just the head of a child.  Pictured: the statue of the man

Two of the figures are adults – a man and a woman, whose heads have been split from their bodies – while the third is just the head of a child. Pictured: the statue of the man

OUT WITH THE HEADS!

According to the archaeologists, it is not uncommon to find Roman statues deformed in some form – as the three busts of St Mary’s Church were beheaded.

Statues were often vandalized before being torn down, they explained.

“These are early examples of how statues and historical artifacts have been discarded as society has evolved over time,” the team noted.

“It’s beyond exciting for us to finish the dig with these utterly amazing finds,” said Rachel Wood, the chief archaeologist for HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor, Fusion JV.

“The images are exceptionally well preserved and you really get a sense of the people who portray them – literally looking into the faces of the past is a unique experience,” she continues.

‘Of course we wonder what else could lie beneath England’s medieval village churches.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime site and we are all looking forward to hearing what else the specialists can tell us about these incredible statues and the history of the site before the construction of the Norman church.”

However, based on their excavations, the team has been able to make some determinations about the history of the site prior to the construction of the church.

The surrounding area appears to have been a natural mound which was then built up further by the deliberate addition of soil – perhaps to form a Bronze Age burial ground.

This then appears to have been dated by a Roman-era square building which archaeologists believe – based on the ornate but scarce nature of the materials they found – was most likely a mausoleum.

Finally, the team suspects that the building may have been repurposed in the Saxon period (indicated by the discovery of Saxon pottery and a Saxon coin) before it was finally demolished by the Normans when they built St. Mary’s Church on the site.

The Roman building’s walls and demolition rubble, the archaeologists noted, were found directly beneath the foundations of the Norman church — with no accumulation of soil between the two.

These 'remarkable' finds (pictured) came in the final stages of the dig, when the team was digging a circular trench around what was believed to be an Anglo-Saxon tower.

These ‘remarkable’ finds (pictured) came in the final stages of the dig, when the team was digging a circular trench around what was believed to be an Anglo-Saxon tower.

According to the archaeologists, it is not uncommon to find Roman statues mutilated in one form or another - as the three busts of St. Mary's Church were beheaded.  Statues were often vandalized before being torn down, they explained

According to the archaeologists, it is not uncommon to find Roman statues deformed in some form – as the three busts of St Mary’s Church were beheaded. Statues were often vandalized before being torn down, they explained

In addition to the busts, the archaeologists also found an incredibly well-preserved Roman-era hexagonal glass jug, large pieces of which were still intact.  Other finds from Roman times at the site included large roof tiles, painted wall plaster and cremation urns

In addition to the busts, the archaeologists also found an incredibly well-preserved Roman-era hexagonal glass jug, large pieces of which were still intact. Other finds from Roman times at the site included large roof tiles, painted wall plaster and cremation urns

These 'remarkable' finds came in the final stages of the dig, when the team was digging a circular trench around what was believed to be an Anglo-Saxon tower

These ‘remarkable’ finds came in the final stages of the dig, when the team was digging a circular trench around what was believed to be an Anglo-Saxon tower

“HS2’s unprecedented archeology program has given us new insights into the history of Britain and provided evidence of where and how our ancestors lived,” said HS2 chief archaeologist Mike Court.

‘These extraordinary Roman statues are just some of the incredible artifacts discovered between London and the West Midlands.

“As HS2 builds the future of Britain, we are discovering and learning about the past, leaving behind a legacy of knowledge and discoveries,” he concluded.

The final destination for the Roman finds has yet to be determined, the team said. In the meantime, however, the three busts are transported to a specialized laboratory where they can be examined and cleaned up.

Because Roman statues were usually painted in bright colours, the team will also look for traces of pigmentation that can still be preserved in the folds of the figures.

Archaeologists from the HS2 railway have uncovered the three stone busts under the ruins of the old St Mary's Church, which was demolished in 1966 because it was unsafe

Archaeologists from the HS2 railway have uncovered the three stone busts under the ruins of the old St Mary’s Church, which was demolished in 1966 because it was unsafe

HS2 CONNECTS LONDON, THE WEST MIDLANDS, LEEDS AND MANCHESTER

HS2 (High Speed ​​2) is a plan for the construction of a new high-speed railway linking London, West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester.

The line will be built in a ‘Y’ configuration. London is at the bottom of the ‘Y’, Birmingham in the middle, Leeds at the top right and Manchester at the top left.

Work on phase one started in 2017 and the line is planned to be operational by 2026.

The HS2 project is being developed by High Speed ​​Two (HS2) Ltd.

The project has an estimated cost of £56 billion ($77 billion), up from the initial cost of £32.7 billion ($45 billion) in 2010.

Last year’s annual report showed that the company set up by the government to build the railway spent £500 million in the year to 31 March – almost 30 percent more than £352.9 million a year earlier.

It brings the total amount HS2 has spent to date to over £1.9bn since 2009.

Separate accounts published by the Department for Transport also showed it had spent a further £366 million on HS2.

The bulk of this was for compensating individuals and businesses who own property and land near the planned line.

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