When building something big, it usually involves bringing in the archaeologists to check the land first, and there’s not much bigger than HS2 for historical discoveries.
A new TV series will screen next Tuesday (15th Sept) highlighting some of the things that have been uncovered over the past three years of preparation works ahead of the main construction phase.
A sort of Time Team adventure, although rather than three days, they had three years.
Anthropologist and anatomist Professor Alice Roberts and historian Dr Yasmin Khan will present the three-part series exploring the discoveries found in Britain’s largest ever archaeological programme.
The BBC series will focus on two major cemetery excavations – one adjacent to London’s Euston station and the other in Park Street, next to Birmingham Curzon Street station – the sites of two new HS2 terminals.
At St James’s Gardens in Euston, the disused Georgian burial ground was home to over 50,000 skeletons, which have been exhumed in the work. Archaeologists were able to find out more about the lives and deaths of ordinary Londoners’ as well as uncover the remains of notable people including Captain Matthew Flinders, the explorer who first circumnavigated Australia and gave it its name.
The findings from the London cemetery can be compared with the work which has taken place in Birmingham, where over 6,500 skeletons were uncovered from the 18th-century burial ground. Work is taking place to examine the skeletons in more detail, alongside artefacts discovered within the burial ground, including figurines, coins, toys and necklaces.
The documentary will explore the phenomenon of resurrectionists (body snatchers) in Georgian London and give insights into the lives of people living and working in Birmingham during a period of great expansion and change.
The TV series, HS2 – The Biggest Dig, airs on BBC Two at 9pm from Tuesday 15 September, repeats on Saturdays at 7pm and will be available on iPlayer.
There’s also a number of heritage themed webinars over the next week or so – all via the HS2 webite.