A vast dig to lay the foundations for Britain’s new high-speed train network is helping to unearth rich new details about ancient Roman life.
Archaeologists on Thursday hailed the discovery of an “extremely rare” and well-preserved humanlike wooden carving at a site in Buckinghamshire, England — the latest find from the digging that is being conducted as part of the country’s HS2 rail link.
The infrastructure project is intended to connect London with the country’s north, but has been criticized as expensive and unnecessary. As part of the project, sites along the route have been undergoing archaeological investigation to help shed light on the country’s past.
Earlier this week, HS2 Ltd, the publicly funded government company behind the project, announced a team had unearthed a vast Roman trading settlement filled with historical treasures dating back to as far as A.D. 43-70.
Among the rare finds were a large Roman road, coins, jewelry, glass vessels, highly decorative pottery and even evidence of ancient makeup.
The wealthy Roman trading town, which developed out of an Iron Age village, is dubbed “Blackgrounds” after the soil found there. The presence of a “significant archeological site” in the area has been known since as far back as the 18th century, the team said in a press release, and the site has been under excavation for the past 12 months by some 80 archaeologists.
“The site really does have the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond,” said James West, the site manager for MOLA Headland Infrastructure.
Findings suggest that the settlement had become more prosperous than originally thought, leading its inhabitants to take up Roman customs, products and building techniques — evidenced by workshops, kilns and preserved 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 line project between the British capital and Birmingham.
Among them is Three Bridge Mill, in Buckinghamshire, where the “exquisite” wooden figure was found. Buried in a water-logged ditch for centuries, the carving was discovered in July 2021 by archaeologists from Infra Archeology working for HS2’s contractor Fusion JV, before being made public Thursday.
“The amazing discovery of this wooden figure was totally unexpected, and the team did a great job of recovering it intact,” Iain Williamson, an archaeologist for Fusion JV, said.
According to initial assessment dates, the “incredibly preserved” figure dates back to the early Roman era. The figure measures just over 26 inches and 7 inches in width 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 seem to have degraded over time.
The figure is thought to be wearing a knee-length tunic which is gathered at the waist, with its head rotated slightly to the left….