23rd Oct, 2020

New BBC 2 TV series 'HS2 – The Biggest Dig' films 18th century cemetery excavation by new West Midlands HS2 terminal

Catherine Vonledebur 10th Sep, 2020 Updated: 11th Sep, 2020

A NEW three-part documentary airs on BBC 2 next Tuesday (September 15) exploring the archaeological discoveries being excavated as part of the HS2 project in the West Midlands and London.

HS2 – The Biggest Dig is presented by Birmingham University-based professor and anthropologist Dr Alice Roberts, and historian, Dr Yasmin Khan.

Filmed over the last three years, HS2 archaeologists have been giving TV documentary makers exclusive access to archaeological sites being excavated.

Before construction work began, and any track is laid, more 1,000 archaeologists, across more than 60 sites in between London and the West Midlands, have been carefully uncovering the secrets of Britain’s past – in the UK’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.

In Birmingham more 6,500 skeletons were uncovered from an 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 – where 50,000 skeletons have been carefully exhumed from a disused Georgian burial ground in Euston – and give insights into the lives of people living and working in Birmingham during a period of great expansion and change.

Mike Court, HS2’s Lead Archaeologist said: “Preparing to construct Britain’s new high speed railway has allowed us to explore and learn more about Britain, creating a legacy of knowledge that will enrich our understanding of the past. Between Birmingham and London our team of archaeologists have carefully excavated over 60 sites of archaeological significance and made fascinating discoveries which tell the stories of Britain through the ages.

“The documentary is one of the ways we are sharing our findings including the story of two cities, Birmingham and London, where we excavated burial grounds, learning about the people who lived, worked and died there at a time of industrial growth and city expansion.”

The series will also be available on BBC IPlayer.

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