Cleaning reveals remarkable new details on rare Roman busts uncovered in HS2 dig

Since the discovery of a set of three Roman busts at the site of the old St Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, initial conservation has been completed by L-P Archaeology, working for HS2’s Enabling Works Contractor Fusion JV. The cleaning process has revealed delicate details on the sculptures, such as tear ducts and the curvature of the lips on the female carved head. As the back of the head on the female statue was encrusted with a thick layer of soil when excavated, the cleaning process has revealed how the hairstyle has been put together.

Specialists have done some analysis on the statues and believe that due to the level of detail and excellent preservation, they would have been housed in a building, rather than being exposed to the elements. Other preliminary information offered includes the suggestion that the set of statues would represent a family and could have been housed within a mausoleum. Analysis also shows that the busts were made from high quality Cotswold bibury type stone.

The intricate carvings can be dated as early as the end of the first century although parallels to the hairstyles can be made with items from the early second century. A near contemporary comparison can be made to a stone oversized female head which is on display at the Roman Baths in Bath.