10,000 years of British history along the 150 mile HS2 route between London to the West Midlands are to be unearthed by an army of archaeologists.
Over the next two years more than 1,000 archaeologists, scientists and conservators from all over the UK will explore and record around 60 archaeological sites on behalf of HS2 Ltd.
Ranging from the Prehistoric and Roman Britain to the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods, and the Industrial Revolution and World War 2; the archaeology programme is Europe’s biggest dig and promises to give fascinating insight into the everyday lives of the people and communities who helped forge modern Britain.
Crucially, these efforts are essential to the ground preparation works for Phase I of the project; London to Birmingham. HS2, its contractors and supply chain are well underway with a programme of work, clearing sites ahead of construction next year. 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 to probe our past.
“How we build HS2 is as important to us as what we are building and we are committed to sharing as much of our cultural heritage as possible,” said Mark Thurston, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. “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.
“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.”
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 and presented by Professor Alice Roberts.
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