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WATCH: Archeologists find Roman statues while excavating medieval church in Buckinghamshire

by Cara Bentley

Two statues, and part of a third statue, have been found at a church excavation site, thought to be more than 1,000 years old. 

St Mary's Church in Stoke Mandeville is currently an archeological site that is being excavated because of the High Speed Rail train line. The discoveries from beneath the church suggest that there were burials on the same land even earlier than the Norman period, which started in 1066. 

Dr Rachel Wood, lead archaeologist, said they were "really rare finds in the UK".

"To find one stone head or one set of shoulders would be really, really astonishing, but we have two complete heads and shoulders as well as a third head as well."

She described the findings as "unique". 

The statues will now be cleaned and professionally conserved so that historians can study them for details of who they might represent. One seems to a be a man and the other a woman and appear to come from a mausoleum - a Roman burial chamber. 

They have also found a glass jar which is largely one piece and can be nearly fully reconstructed with all the pieces in place. 

During excavations, archaeologists have also discovered unusual stone carvings, medieval graffiti and other markings. Historians consider these markings to be ‘witches’ marks, created to ward-off evil spirits. However, they could also be early sun dials, used by the church to divide the day into morning prayer, midday prayer and evening prayer. 

Experts believe the church was built in 1080AD as a private chapel and was then used for centuries, until it went out of use in the 1880s. 


They reckon the church went through many renovations over the years, which included the construction of a bell tower, marking the transition from private chapel to a widely used church. The burial ground of the church was in use for 900 years, meaning the findings of the archologists will explain a lot about life in Stoke Mandeville from 11th century onwards. 

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