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Roman town uncovered in Britain as dig for new rail line reveals ‘exquisite’ ancient finds

Extensive digs to lay the foundations for Britain’s new high-speed rail network are revealing rich new details about ancient Roman life.

Archaeologists on Thursday hailed the discovery of an “extremely rare” and well-preserved human-like woodcut at a site in Buckinghamshire, England — the latest find from an excavation being made as part of the country’s HS2 railway.

The infrastructure project aims to connect London with the north of the country, but has been criticized as costly and unnecessary. As part of the project, sites along the route are undergoing archaeological examination to help shed light on the country’s past.

Earlier this week, HS2 Ltd, the publicly funded government company behind the project, announced that a team had discovered a vast Roman trading settlement filled with historical treasures dating back to AD 43-70.

Among the rare finds are a large Roman road, coins, jewelry, glassware, highly ornate pottery, and even evidence of ancient makeup.

The wealthy Roman trading town, which grew out of an Iron Age village, was called “Blackgrounds” after the soil found there. The existence of an “important archaeological site” in the area has been known since the 18th century, the team said in a press release, and the site has been under excavation for the past 12 months by about 80 archaeologists.

“The site really has the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond,” said James West, director of MOLA Headland Infrastructure.

A carved wooden figure from the early Roman period was discovered in a flooded trench in Buckinghamshire, England.HS2

The findings indicate that the settlement became more prosperous than originally thought, leading its inhabitants to adopt Roman customs, products, and building techniques – as evidenced by preserved workshops, kilns, and wells.

The site is located in Northamptonshire, about a two-hour drive north of London, and is one of more than 100 being examined as part of the railway project between the British capital and Birmingham.

Among them is Three Bridge Mill, in Buckinghamshire, where the “cool” wooden figure was found. Buried in a crater that has been submerged for centuries, the inscription was discovered in July 2021 by archaeologists from Infra Archeology working for HS2 Fusion JV contractor, before it was announced on Thursday.

“The amazing discovery of this woody form was completely unexpected, and the team did a fantastic job restoring it as is,” said Ian Williamson, an archaeologist at Fusion JV.

According to initial evaluation dates, the “incredibly preserved” figure dates back to the early Roman period. The figure measures just over 26 inches wide and 7 inches wide and is carved from a single piece of wood. While most of the figure is intact and well defined, the feet and arms below the elbows appear to have deteriorated over time.

The statue is believed to be wearing a long, knee-length tunic gathered at the waist, with its head slightly rotated to the left. A noteworthy detail “brings the individual to life” by preserving the head sculpting, which suggests that the figure may have been wearing a hat or wearing a hairstyle.

“This is a really cool discovery that puts us face to face with our past. The quality of the sculpture is fantastic and the form is all the more interesting because organic objects from this period rarely survive,” said Jim Williams, senior science advisor and home worker for HS2.

Wooden prehistoric British and Roman-British figurines are extremely rare.
HS2

What was initially thought to be just a dilapidated piece of wood turned out to be an impressive evidence of how Roman settlements in the area operated.

“This discovery helps us to imagine what other wood, plant or animal artwork and carvings may have been created at this time,” he said.

Wooden prehistoric British and Roman-British figurines are extremely rare. Examples of wood carvings in the UK include a wooden tip that was discovered in a well in Northampton in 2019, believed to be a Roman votive offering.

The figure raises new questions about this site, who represents the wooden figure, what was it used for and why was it important to the people living in this part of Buckinghamshire during the first century AD? ‘ Williamson said.

Archaeologists believe it is possible that the figure was deliberately placed in the trench rather than being disposed of at random. While experts cannot be certain what the carved artifact was used for, it is speculated that this figure may have been used as an offering to the gods, much like the woodcarvings previously unearthed.

The number has been preserved by the York Archeology Laboratory, which specializes in antiquities preservation, where it will undergo examination and preservation. The radiocarbon dating of a small part of the statue will provide an accurate history of the wood and may indicate the origin of the wood.

HS2 has discovered a treasure trove of “high-quality finds” as part of the National High Speed ​​Rail Project. Helen Wass, Head of Heritage at HS2, said she believes the combination of the infrastructure project and archaeological excavation can provide a wealth of information about the country’s past.

“We are committed to sharing our findings with communities and the public, to deepen our understanding of Britain’s history,” she said.

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