One of the largest Anglo-Saxon burial sites ever discovered in the UK has been found along the HS2 route in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. The BBC reports that the find consists of 138 graves, which contain skeletons, jewellery, weapons, and other artefacts. The finds were described as ‘stunning’ by the historian Dan Snow.

Some of the found objects were thought to be early grooming and cosmetic implements, including combs, tweezers, make up, toothpicks, and ear wax removers. Whatever the setbacks and politics of the ambitious high speed rail line have been so far, the excavation works have already uncovered a rich treasure trove of historically significant finds.

Speaking on his podcast, Dan Snow said: “This stunning set of discoveries on the HS2 route can tell us more about how our predecessors lived, fought and ultimately died. It is one of the best and most revealing post Roman sites in the country and it was thrilling to join the team as they uncovered their wonderful finds.”

One of the skeletons, identified as a male between the ages of 17 and 24, was found with a sharp implement embedded into his spine, possibly causing the death. Osteologists believe that a weapon was thrust into the front of the male, passing through the body before lodging in the back vertebrae.

A female skeleton was found with a range of precious ornamental items and jewellery, including rings, brooches, belt fittings, and an intact pale green glass bowl, and other valuable carved ivory items. The female was probably of high social ranking, and buried with prized possessions as a mark of respect.

The archaeological services for the HS2 project are being delivered by INFRA, which is a joint venture between Rubicon Heritage Services and Network Archaeology. They have already made several significant finds whilst working at sites along the HS2 route, including an early Roman carved wooden figure in a ditch in Twyford, Buckinghamshire.

The latest find is being compared in importance to the discovery of an Anglo Saxon ship at Sutton Hoo in 1939, which is described by the British Museum as the most impressive medieval grave discovered in Europe. The ship was a burial chamber packed with precious artefacts, including rare silverware, luxurious textiles, and gold accessories.

In the five years since the excavations for the first leg of the HS2 route began between London and Birmingham, over 60 archaeological sites have been uncovered.

Speaking of the latest find, Dr Wood, lead archaeologist, said: “The significance of this site for our historical and archaeological understanding of Anglo-Saxon Britain is huge. It is not a site I would ever have anticipated finding – to have found one of these burials would have been astonishing, so to have found so many is quite unbelievable.”

She added: “We have 141 individuals here, that’s quite a large cemetery for the time that we know about, and over 70% of them have been found with objects which is really unusual.”

“Normally you might find one or two individuals in a small cemetery might have a comb with them or something like that and here we have so many individuals with multiple objects from weaponry to jewellery to grooming kits.”

Mike Court, lead archaeologist for HS2 Ltd, said: “We are just at the beginning of our understanding of how the discoveries will improve our historical knowledge of Britain.

“The archaeological finds made at this site in Wendover will not only be of interest to the local community but are of national importance, providing a valuable insight into life in Anglo-Saxon Britain.”

Meanwhile, construction has begun on the first so called ‘green’ tunnel along the HS2 route at Chipping Warden in Northamptonshire, New Civil Engineer reports. The tunnel will be built in a shallow trench above ground, and then back filled and planted with greenery to minimise its impact on the local countryside.

The tunnel is constructed from 5,020 concrete segments which are being manufactured off-site at the Stanton Precast Factory in Derbyshire. The segments are reinforced with steel, and will be assembled by on-site engineers. The innovative design was developed after engineers studied methods used to construct a similar high-speed line in France.

The tunnel will have an ‘m’ shape, to create separate north/south lines. Four similar tunnels will be constructed further along the route at Wendover, Greatworth, and Burton green. They will all feature innovative noise cancelling portals at each end, which will reduce the sound impact of the trains entering and exiting the tunnels.

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