Archaeology breakthrough: ‘Stunning’ triple find during HS2 work: ‘Incredibly exciting’

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The presenter of Digging for Britain, the new season of which is set to air early next year, was involved in a tonne of stunning archaeological digs where she learned intriguing insights about the history of Britain. But one particularly “fantastic” moment occurred along with the excavation of a site that sits on the line of the new HS2 route- St Mary’s church in Stoke Mandeville. Prof Roberts said: “Big construction projects give us an amazing opportunity to look at how densely the British landscape has been occupied over the years.

“On the series, we cover really incredible sites with a Roman settlement and two earlier Iron age settlements from a large area of excavation along HS2

“There was a fantastic discovery during the HS2 excavation.”

Prof Roberts is referring to the exciting discovery made by HS2 archaeologists when they found what they believe is the remains of an Anglo-Saxon structure.

It was discovered right underneath the structure of the Norman church they were already excavating.

And Prof Roberts said the site had sparked her interest right from the minute go.

She told “It was always an interesting site. It was a church that was a little bit away from St Mandeville itself.

“When the archaeologists started clearing it, it was a ruined church.

“When they started digging down, they kind of anticipated that they might find something underneath it that would explain why that Norman church was there.

“They did indeed find foundations that they think might be an Anglo-Saxon tower, with some burials around them.

“I was there the day they realised that it definitely did have Anglo-Saxon archaeology because a coin of Ethelred the Second turned up, which was fantastic, and I was very excited that it turned up when I was on site.”

But the story does not end there.

Because not only was there Anglo-Saxon archaeology that was unearthed from under the archaeological structure from the Normans, but shockingly, a third layer of history was hidden below.

Prof Roberts said: “I kept in touch with archaeologists and caught up with them a few weeks later when they brought some of the finds to our find tent for Digging for Britain, where we talk about some of the projects after the excavations are finished and do some analysis after the individual finds.

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“But in fact, a couple of weeks after that, they carried on digging down and found Roman remains.

“That was just an incredible story because you had that Norman Church, but under that an Anglo-Saxon phase and then under that a Roman phase.

“It may be that there was something there even earlier.”

The Norman church structure was built on a light grey compacted foundation band laid by the Normans, which proves that any archaeological deposits found below that band are pre-Norman.

Dr Rachel Wood, Lead Archaeologist for Fusion JV, the team that worked on the dig, said of the discovery: “To then find an earlier structure beneath the Norman church is outstanding.

“To have so much of it remaining, including the walls and even some flooring, will provide a great deal of information about the site prior to the construction of the Norman church in 1080AD.

“The discovery of this pre-Norman, possible Saxon Church is a once in a career opportunity for archaeologists and will provide a much greater understanding of the history of Stoke Mandeville.”

Prof Roberts said: “That was a lovely example of a real depth of archaeology just in one quite tight locality.

“The Roman archaeology was just stunning. They found cremation earns in a ditch around an enclosure…and big bits of Roman statues, which is very unusual.”

“That was incredibly exciting.”

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