Archaeologists uncover Roman wooden figure

An early Roman wooden carved figure has been discovered during work on the HS2 project.

(Background) Archaeologists excavating the site (HS2/PA) (Circle) Roman wooden carved figure which has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project (HS2/PA)

In July 2021, archaeologists from Infra Archaeology, working for HS2’s contractor Fusion JV, removed the well-preserved figure from a water-logged Roman ditch in a field in Twyford, Buckinghamshire.

As they were investigating at Three Bridge Mill, the team came across what they initially thought was a degraded piece of wood. As they continued to excavate it a humanlike, or anthropomorphic, figure was revealed. The figure, cut from a single piece of wood, stands at 67cm tall and is 18cm wide.

Initial assessment dates the wooden figure to the early Roman period, given the style of the carving and the tunic-like clothing. Shards of pottery dating from 43-70 AD were also discovered in the same ditch. Whilst archaeologists cannot be certain about what the carved figure was used for, there have been examples of wooden carved images being offered as gifts to the gods. It is possible that rather than being casually discarded in the ditch it was more deliberately placed there.

Roman wooden carved figure which has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project. Credit: HS2/PA

Given its predicted age and being carved from wood, what is most surprising is the incredible preservation of the artefact. The lack of oxygen in the water-logged clay fill of the ditch has helped prevent the wood from rotting, thus preserving it for centuries.

Speaking about the incredible discovery, Iain Williamson, Archaeologist for Fusion JV said:

“The amazing discovery of this wooden figure was totally unexpected, and the team did a great job of recovering it intact. The preservation of details carved into the wood such as the hair and tunic really start to bring the individual depicted to life. Not only is the survival of a wooden figure like this extremely rare for the Roman period in Britain, but it also raises new questions about this site, who does the wooden figure represent, what was it used for and why was it significant to the people living in this part of Buckinghamshire during the 1st century AD?”

Roman wooden carved figure which has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project. Credit: HS2/PA

Whilst the figure is in good condition given its age, the arms below the elbows and feet have degraded. A surprising amount of detail remains visible in the carving with the figure’s hat or hairstyle clearly noticeable. The head is slightly rotated to the left, the tunic at the front seems to be gathered at the waist going down to above knee level, and the legs and shape of the calf muscles are well defined.

The figure is currently being preserved by York Archaeology’s conservation team at their specialist laboratory where it will undergo examination and conservation. A small fragment from the figure, found broken off in the ditch, is being sent for radiocarbon dating to provide an accurate date for the wood, and stable isotope analysis is being undertaken, which may indicate where the wood originally came from.

Very rare Roman wooden figure discovered during HS2 work in Buckinghamshire:

An early Roman wooden carved figure has been discovered during work on the HS2 project. (Background) Archaeologists excavating the site (HS2/PA) (Circle) Roman wooden carved figure which has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project (HS2/PA) In July 2021, archaeologists from Infra Archaeology, working for HS2’s contractor Fusion JV, removed…

Related Posts

Archaeologists Uncover” terrifying mysteries” and a more than 500-year-old Aztec tower composed of human skulls

Archaeologists excavating a famed Aztec “tower of skulls” in Mexico City have uncovered a new section featuring 119 human skulls. The find brings the total number of…

Uncovering the Mysteries of Turkey’s 2,600-year-old Lycian Stone-Cut Tomb

Hoping, perhaps, to lay their hands on something comparable to the famed Elmali Treasures, looters used explosives to break through the entrance of a 2,500-year-old Lycian rock-cut…

In Corsica, the “City of Loss,” including 40 bones buried 1,700 years ago in enormous jars, was discovered

Archaeologists in France have uncovered a massive cemetery containing 40 tombs dating from the first half of the first millennium. Bodies were discovered inside of amphorae, or…

A 6,000-year-old tomb has been found in Egypt’s Saqqara Necropolis, and inside are some weird non-human mummies

In Egypt’s Saqqara Necropolis, a 6,000-year-old tomb has been discovered. In additional burial chambers, archaeologists discovered cat and scarab mummies. Egypt’s King Userkaf pyramid complex has archaeologists…

Near the North Pole, an ancient mummy from a “lost medieval culture” has awed researchers

After spending a number of decades frozen in the Siberian tundra, the mummified remains of an adult and a baby, each clad with copper, were discovered. According…

In India, a 16th-century Kerala Temple was surprised to have a new trillion-dollar treasure discovered directly beneath it

The royal chapel of Travancore’s erstwhile kings was the 16th century Kerala temple located within India. It gained notoriety five years ago when one of its six…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.