A team of archaeologists excavating the ruins of a medieval church built near Aylesbury, England, recently found something truly unexpected.
A “truly astounding” find, according to the lead archaeologist, the team started work at St. Mary’s Church in the village of Stoke Mandeville this past May, before turning their attention to the graveyard. After exhuming as many as 3,000 human remains (which they plan to rebury at a new site), they uncovered something they could not have predicted: well-preserved Roman statuary, including the statues of a man, woman, and child.
Also found was an exceedingly rare glass Roman jug, roof tiles, pieces of painted wall plaster, and Roman cremation urns.
The finds lead the archaeologists to believe that the Norman church was actually built on top of the rubble from a Roman mausoleum that housed the cremated remains of the family depicted in the statues.
The archaeologists now believe that the Roman mausoleum was originally built on top of a Bronze-Age burial mound. When the Romans left England, the Anglo-Saxons vandalized the site and raised a church on top of the ruins. This church was later rebuilt in 1080 by the Normans, as shown in the artist rendering above. In the 1880s when the Norman church had fallen into disrepair, a new church was built nearby. Since then, the church was abandoned and had become overgrown with vegetation.
Over the next few months, the statues will be cleaned and examined to see if they can identify the color of paint that was used to decorate them.
Although the final destination of the artifacts is yet to be determined, a field museum has been set up at the site so visitors can watch the excavations proceed.
Check out this drone video of the excavations and interviews with the archaeologists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRtPTM2pofw