Wooden Roman figure found at Twyford during HS2 dig

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Image source, HS2
Image caption,
The figure was found with pottery from the 1st Century AD, so may date to the same period

Archaeologists working on the route of the HS2 high-speed railway have found an "extremely rare" wooden figure made during the Roman period.

It was unearthed in a waterlogged ditch in a field in Twyford, Buckinghamshire.

They initially thought the 67cm (26in) by 18cm (7in) figure was a degraded piece of wood, but as they excavated a humanlike shape was revealed.

Archaeologist Iain Williamson said it was an "amazing discovery".

Image source, HS2
Image caption,
The figure is currently being preserved by York Archaeology's conservation team

The carved figure is wearing tunic-like clothing which ends above the knee.

Mr Williamson, an archaeologist for HS2 contractor Fusion JV, described it as "extremely rare" and added: "The preservation of details carved into the wood, such as the hair and tunic, really start to bring the individual depicted to life."

The lack of oxygen in the ditch helped preserve the wood over the centuries, although the figure's arms below the elbows and its feet have degraded.

Shards of pottery found in the same ditch date to AD43-70, suggesting the figure was deposited in the early Romano-British period.

A small fragment of the figure, which had broken off, has been sent for radiocarbon dating.

Image source, Michael Bamforth
Image caption,
A Roman wooden arm find was reported in 2019, but full carved figures from the Roman era are even rarer finds

Jim Williams, senior science advisor for Historic England, said: "This is a truly remarkable find which brings us face to face with our past.

"The quality of the carving is exquisite and the figure is all the more exciting because organic objects from this period rarely survive."

Like a "finely carved" wooden arm recovered from the bottom of a Roman well in Raunds, Northamptonshire, the experts believe the figure may have been deliberately placed in the ditch as an offering to the gods.

The find will feature in Digging for Britain on BBC Two at 20:00 GMT, and on iPlayer.

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