Find­ing the Se­crets of the past

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

AR­CHAE­OL­O­GISTS are in­ves­ti­gat­ing 10,000 years of Bri­tish his­tory along the line of the new High Speed rail route in what they say is Europe’s largest dig.

Ex­perts from the HS2 project have be­gun work on the pro­gramme to ex­ca­vate sites along the 150-mile route from Lon­don to the West Mid­lands, the com­pany said.

Ne­olithic tools, me­dieval pot­tery and Vic­to­rian time cap­sules have al­ready been dis­cov­ered.

In to­tal, more than a thou­sand ar­chae­ol­o­gists are set to ex­plore more than 60 sep­a­rate sites, from pre­his­toric and Ro­man set­tle­ments to those from the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion and the Sec­ond World War.

Mark Thurston, HS2 chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “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.”

Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites be­ing in­ves­ti­gated along the route in­clude a pre­his­toric hunter-gath­erer site on the out­skirts of Lon­don, a Ro­man Bri­tish town in Fleet Marston, Ayles­bury, a 1,000-year-old de­mol­ished me­dieval church and burial ground in Buck­ing­hamshire and a WW2 bomb­ing de­coy in Lich­field.

HS2 said all arte­facts and hu­man re­mains would be treated with dig­nity, care and re­spect, and a four-part doc­u­men­tary on the his­tory of Bri­tain that is ex­posed by the project will air on the BBC in 2019/2020.

Pa­trick Hol­land, BBC Two con­troller, said: “This is a ma­jor se­ries fol­low­ing this un­prece­dented project.

“The HS2 digs prom­ise to re­veal se­crets through­out a vast time­line of Bri­tish his­tory and I am de­lighted that BBC Two will be fol­low­ing the jour­ney.”

Tom McDon­ald, head of com­mis­sion­ing at the BBC’s Nat­u­ral His­tory and Spe­cial­ist Fac­tual unit, added: “It’s thrilling to be there from the very start of what is un­ques­tion­ably one of the most sig­nif­i­cant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal en­deav­ours in Bri­tish his­tory.

“It prom­ises to make us re-in­ter­ro­gate what we think we know about Bri­tish his­tory and give us an ex­tra­or­di­nary and priv­i­leged in­sight into the past.”

Dun­can Wil­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of govern­ment her­itage body His­toric Eng­land said: “With the build­ing of HS2 comes a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity to im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of how peo­ple have shaped Eng­land’s land­scapes over thou­sands of years, from the first pre­his­toric farm­ers through Ro­man and Saxon and Vik­ing in­com­ers to the more re­cent past.” ar­chae­o­log­i­cal

IMAGES: HS2

An ar­chae­ol­o­gist ex­am­in­ing a cof­fin plate at St James’s burial ground in Lon­don. Above, a time cap­sule, dated April 24 1884, found un­der the foun­da­tion stone of the north wing at the Na­tional Tem­per­ance Hospi­tal in Lon­don

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