Archaeologists on the HS2 project in the UK have begun work on Europe’s largest archaeological dig, exploring over 10,000 years of British history along the 150-mile route from London to the West Midlands.
Over 1,000 archaeologists set to explore 10,000 years of British history across more than 60 separate sites, Neolithic tools, medieval pottery and Victorian time capsules already discovered, said High Speed Two (HS2) Limited in a statement.
As part of HS2’s enabling works, over the next two years, more than 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators from across the UK will be exploring and recording over 60 archaeological sites for the project.
Ranging from the Prehistoric and Roman Britain to the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, and the Industrial Revolution and World War 2, HS2’s archaeology programme is Europe’s biggest dig and promises to provide a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of the people and communities who made modern Britain.
The archaeology programme is a central part of HS2’s ground preparation works for Phase One of the project, London to Birmingham. HS2, its contractors and supply chain are well underway with a programme of work, clearing sites, ahead of main construction works next year.
Given the historical significance of the sites, HS2 will be engaging over 1,000 archaeologists to ensure that it carry out the works to a professional standard while leaving a lasting legacy of skills and apprenticeships as well as new discoveries.
Early finds include prehistoric tools in Buckinghamshire, medieval pottery in Stoke Mandeville and two Victorian time capsules with more discoveries to come as archaeologists begin the exploration of our past.
“As well as improving connectivity, generating 30,000 new jobs and creating a network of new wildlife habitats, our archaeology programme shows that HS2 is more than a railway; it’s an opportunity to tell the story of our past, create opportunities in the present and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come,” said Mark Thurston, HS2 Ltd Chief Executive commenting on HS2’s archaeology programme.
Highlights along the line of the route include exploring a prehistoric hunter-gatherer site on the outskirts of London, researching an undiscovered multi-period site (Bronze and Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval) in Northamptonshire, excavating a Romano-British town in Fleet Marston, Aylesbury, and many others.
HS2 has granted BBC Two access to this pioneering project, to be documented in a new series made by Lion TV, due on air in 2019/20 presented by Prof. Alice Roberts.
The archaeological investigation is expected to last around two years with over 1,000 archaeologists, experts and engineering personnel beginning work on site. They are part of more than 7,000 people already employed on the project, which is expected to support up to 30,000 jobs at the peak of construction.