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HS2 Archaeology

Before we build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, the largest archaeology programme ever undertaken in the UK will take place along the line of route.

HS2: A train through time

Exploring our past, preparing for the future

Over the next 2 years, more than 1,000 archaeologists, specialists, scientists and conservators will be exploring and recording over 60 archaeological sites for the project. As part of HS2’s enabling works, they will reveal over 10,000 years of British history.

Their work will range from the Prehistoric period, through Roman Britain, the Anglo-Saxon and Medieval ages, the Industrial Revolution, to 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.

Map showing some of the HS2 Phase One archaeological sites
Map showing some of the HS2 Phase One archaeological sites

Early finds

In 2017, 2 Victorian time capsules buried nearly 140 years ago, to mark the opening of the UK’s first “sober” hospital, were uncovered during the demolition of the derelict National Temperance Hospital in London.

Victorian time capsule buried nearly 140 years ago
Victorian time capsule buried nearly 140 years ago.

Early archaeological works in Hillingdon revealed prehistoric activity in the area. We believe these tools were used by our ancestors who lived in the Mesolithic to the Iron Age, around 8,000 BC to 43 AD.

Archaeologist holding prehistoric flint
Prehistoric flints discovered during archaeological excavation.

Exciting sites to keep an eye on

Over the next 2 years, we’ll exploring over 60 sites of archaeological importance. These are the ones to keep an eye on, we’ll be:

  • 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;
  • uncovering the remains of a medieval manor in Warwickshire;
  • finding out more about the Black Death and its impact on medieval villages;
  • re-telling the story of a Buckinghamshire village through the careful excavation of a 1,000 year old demolished Anglo-Saxon church and burial ground;
  • comparing and contrasting the lives of the buried population in 2 Georgian/Victorian burial grounds in London and Birmingham; and
  • discovering a WW2 bombing decoy in Litchfield

The archaeological work will enable us to show that HS2 is more than a railway.

It’s a project that will have a huge positive impact on the UK, dramatically enriching our cultural heritage and leaving a lasting legacy for the future.

Dignity, care, respect

The careful excavation of the remains of ordinary people and celebrities of their time will give us an unprecedented opportunity to trace our ancestors and tell their stories. We’ll be archaeologically excavating 3 known burial grounds. We’ll be able to look at the lives of people who lived and worked in London and Birmingham during a period of great significance and growth.

In Stoke Mandeville, we’ll be able to tell the story of a village and its population over 1,000 years as they lived through the most prominent historical periods in our history.

Picture of skeleton being examined
All artefacts and human remains will be treated with the dignity, care and respect they deserve.

Sharing the discoveries

Our discoveries during HS2’s archaeological digs will be shared with communities, re-telling the stories of our past, helping us understand what made us as a country and the people who built the foundations of modern Britain. HS2 will link the past, present and future.

People of all ages and from all over the UK and beyond will be involved in the discoveries in a variety of ways. Expert lectures, community open days, school visits and online channels will allow people to understand their history and see archaeologists at work.

People in personal protective equipment on one of our open days
People in personal protective equipment on one of our heritage open days.

Leaving a lasting legacy for the future

During the archaeological work, HS2 will be calling on the expertise of over a 1,000 archaeologists to help us discover our past. We’ll also be training archaeologists for the future.

Traineeships, apprenticeships and volunteer days will expose people to the cutting-edge technology and modern techniques being used by our team of archaeologists.

Young girl on an 'Archaeology on Wheels' time truck
HS2 will leave a legacy of newly trained archaeologists, new discoveries and a treasure trove of artefacts.

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