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Ancient Japanese tombs are aligned so they all face the arc of the rising sun, according to a new study involving satellite images.   

Hundreds of ancient burial mounds can be found dotted across the Japanese Islands, the largest of which are known as Kofun, and shaped like a keyhole.  

Few details are known about the monuments, some of which are up to 1,600ft in length, because there are no written records, excavations are rare and limited to the smaller ones, and access is strictly restricted or even forbidden. 

High-resolution satellite imagery allowed the team from the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy to discover more about the mysterious monuments. 

The satellite imagery revealed the relationship between the monuments, the landscape and the sky – finding they orientate to the arc of the rising sun. 

This isn’t by chance, according to the researchers, who say it is in agreement with the Japanese imperial tradition, and the mythical origin of the dynasty, which considers them direct descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.

Ancient Japanese tombs are aligned so they all face the arc of the rising sun, according to a new study involving satellite images

Ancient Japanese tombs are aligned so they all face the arc of the rising sun, according to a new study involving satellite images

Hundreds of ancient burial mounds can be found dotted across the Japanese Islands, the largest of which are known as Kofun, and shaped like a keyhole

Hundreds of ancient burial mounds can be found dotted across the Japanese Islands, the largest of which are known as Kofun, and shaped like a keyhole

ABOUT THE TOMBS 

The funerary mounds, built between the third and seventh century CE, were found to contain items made of iron, weapons and the remains of people.

They have been attributed to the semi-legendary first emperors of Japan, with the smaller tombs dedicated to members of the royal family and aids. 

The Daisen Kofun mound is approximately 1,600 ft long and 980 ft across at its widest point, rising 118ft above the surrounding terrain.

It is off-limits and protected by the Imperial Household Agency in the centre of Sakai City. 

It is completely overgrown by vegetation, with the moat a haven for fish species. 

Studies using satellite imagery revealed the entrance to all of the tombs face the arc of the rising sun.

They were built between the third and seventh century CE, with the most imposing of the monuments dedicated to the semi-legendary first emperors of Japan. 

The smaller moments probably belonged to court officers, serving those first emperors, as well as to members of the royal family. 

Among them is the Daisen Kofun, one of the largest monuments ever built on Earth, measuring 1,600ft long by 118ft height. 

It is traditionally attributed to Emperor Nintoku, the sixteenth emperor of Japan, and belongs to a group of tombs recently given UNESCO world heritage status.

There are no written sources on these tombs, which makes uncovering their origins and details much harder, according to the Italian team.

Further adding to the problem for historians is the fact excavations of the tombs are rare, and limited to the smaller monuments.

This is because the largest tombs are considered being of the first semi-legendary emperors and, as such, are strictly protected by law. 

Protection also extends to the outside, with many monuments fenced – which means archaeologists can’t even enter the perimeter of the grounds.  

For these reasons, it is impossible to obtain accurate measurements of size, height and orientation, the team explained.

They were built between the third and seventh century CE, with the most imposing of the monuments dedicated to the semi-legendary first emperors of Japan

They were built between the third and seventh century CE, with the most imposing of the monuments dedicated to the semi-legendary first emperors of Japan

The satellite imagery revealed the relationship between the monuments, the landscape and the sky - finding they orientate to the arc of the rising sun

The satellite imagery revealed the relationship between the monuments, the landscape and the sky – finding they orientate to the arc of the rising sun

Furthermore, their sheer number of monuments further discourages any on field investigation – as the cost would be prohibitive. 

This is why the team turned to high-resolution satellite images – which are described as a ‘powerful tool for remote sensing investigations’. 

Study authors, Norma Baratta, Arianna Picotti and Giulio Magli of the Politecnico di Milano set out to deepen the knowledge of the relationships between these monuments and the landscape, in particular, with the sky. 

The team measured the orientation of more than 100 Kofuns over the course of their satellite investigations.

Study authors, Norma Baratta, Arianna Picotti and Giulio Magli of the Politecnico di Milano set out to deepen the knowledge of the relationships between these monuments and the landscape, in particular, with the sky

Study authors, Norma Baratta, Arianna Picotti and Giulio Magli of the Politecnico di Milano set out to deepen the knowledge of the relationships between these monuments and the landscape, in particular, with the sky

This isn't by chance, according to the researchers, who say it is in agreement with the Japanese imperial tradition, and the mythical origin of the dynasty, which considers them direct descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu

This isn’t by chance, according to the researchers, who say it is in agreement with the Japanese imperial tradition, and the mythical origin of the dynasty, which considers them direct descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu

Few details are known about the monuments, some of which are up to 1,600ft in length, because there are no written records, excavations are rare and limited to the smaller ones, and access is strictly restricted or even forbidden

Few details are known about the monuments, some of which are up to 1,600ft in length, because there are no written records, excavations are rare and limited to the smaller ones, and access is strictly restricted or even forbidden

They found a strong connection of the Kofun entrance corridors with the arc in the sky where the Sun and the Moon are visible every day of the year.

They show that the orientation of the hugest keyhole-shaped Kofuns to the arc of the Sun rising/shining, in particular, the Daisen Kofun is oriented towards the Sun rising at the winter solstice. 

The findings have been published in the journal Remote Sensing. 

Sun Goddess Amaterasu: A major deity of the Shinto religion 

The Sun Goddess Amaterasu is one of the major deities in the Japanese Shinto religion, portrayed in the earliest Japanese texts, the Kojiki, dating to 712 CE.

She was the ruler of the heavenly realm Takamagahara and the mythical ancestress of the Imperial House of Japan via her grandson Ninigi. 

Alongside siblings Tsukuyomi, the moon god, and the storm god Susanoo, Amaterasu is considered to be one of the “Three Precious Children’ – or the most important children of creator god Izanagi. 

The mythical origin of the dynasty of the Japanese Emperors considers them as direct descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.  


These mesmerising pictures show just how magical and Middle-earth-like England’s woodlands can be.

They are the work of landscape photographer Richard Searle, a music composer who also runs a fledgling photography business, and were mostly taken in his home county, Surrey.

Searle turns his camera on gnarled tree trunks and beds of moss and ferns, often capturing beautiful mist-laden scenes in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and in the oakwoods of Dartmoor, Devon. 

He tells MailOnline Travel: ‘It takes persistence for woodlands to give up their secrets, but a real beauty in the detail is revealed once they do.’ 

How does he capture such spellbinding pictures of Britain’s woods? Searle explains: ‘I spend countless hours wandering around local woodlands, and when I find something that catches my eye, I take a shot with my phone and store the location data.

‘Sometimes I’m lucky enough to just stumble upon a scene at the right time, in good conditions, but that’s a rarity. Usually, it takes repeated visits to the same location before I finally get the conditions I’m hoping for.’ Scroll down to see 15 images from Searle’s wonderful portfolio of work…

This mystical image, named 'Portal', was captured in Wistman's Wood on Dartmoor. Searle says of the shot: 'Wistman's Wood is always a magical place but a bit of mist and gloom certainly adds to the ambience'

This mystical image, named ‘Portal’, was captured in Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. Searle says of the shot: ‘Wistman’s Wood is always a magical place but a bit of mist and gloom certainly adds to the ambience’

This transfixing picture of a deer in Surrey woodland is named 'Contact'. Searle says: 'This young chap stood perfectly still for at least 30 seconds, allowing me to get into a good position for this shot. I couldn’t believe my luck'

Set in the Surrey Hills AONB, this ethereal picture was captured on a 'bitterly cold morning in March'. Searle says: ‘The best times for woodland photography are at the very beginning or end of the day, when the light is soft and diffused. Blue hour can also be fantastic as the atmosphere in a woodland [that is] lit only by the faintest early morning light can be a truly wonderful thing'

LEFT: This transfixing picture of a deer in Surrey woodland is named ‘Contact’. Searle says: ‘This young chap stood perfectly still for at least 30 seconds, allowing me to get into a good position for this shot. I couldn’t believe my luck.’ RIGHT: Set in the Surrey Hills AONB, this ethereal picture was captured on a ‘bitterly cold morning in March’. Searle says: ‘The best times for woodland photography are at the very beginning or end of the day, when the light is soft and diffused. Blue hour can also be fantastic as the atmosphere in a woodland [that is] lit only by the faintest early morning light can be a truly wonderful thing’

Behold, 'Twister', which was captured by Searle in Surrey. He describes the image as a 'lovely scene of symmetrically leaning twisted oaks'. The photographer notes: ‘The greatest challenge with woodland photography is making sense of what is usually a very chaotic environment. Fog helps as it creates separation between subjects and softens distant details but even so, tiny movements of the camera can make or break an image'

Behold, ‘Twister’, which was captured by Searle in Surrey. He describes the image as a ‘lovely scene of symmetrically leaning twisted oaks’. The photographer notes: ‘The greatest challenge with woodland photography is making sense of what is usually a very chaotic environment. Fog helps as it creates separation between subjects and softens distant details but even so, tiny movements of the camera can make or break an image’

'Arc' is the title of this striking photograph of a tree in the Surrey Hills. The photographer reveals he enjoyed 'perfect conditions' when he took the shot one winter morning

‘Arc’ is the title of this striking photograph of a tree in the Surrey Hills. The photographer reveals he enjoyed ‘perfect conditions’ when he took the shot one winter morning 

Of this captivating scene captured in Surrey, Searle recalls: 'The light breaking through the canopy in the distance, framed by the two old oaks, was enough to catch my eye.' Speaking generally about his portfolio of landscape photography, he adds: ‘These photographs are about relationships between shapes, colour, texture and contrast and everything that is in the frame needs to be considered’

Of this captivating scene captured in Surrey, Searle recalls: ‘The light breaking through the canopy in the distance, framed by the two old oaks, was enough to catch my eye.’ Speaking generally about his portfolio of landscape photography, he adds: ‘These photographs are about relationships between shapes, colour, texture and contrast and everything that is in the frame needs to be considered’

Dartmoor is the setting for this beautiful image, which Searle titled 'Relict'. He says that the picture shows 'summer sunlight breaching the dense canopy, the soft glow of the moss, clinging to the oak trunks and a delicate Rowan tree, clinging on for survival, nestled amongst its mighty companions'. The photographer adds: 'It’s a shame that the Rowan wasn’t resplendent with berries - just a few in the top right corner - but [it's] hardly surprising, considering how little light penetrates through'

Dartmoor is the setting for this beautiful image, which Searle titled ‘Relict’. He says that the picture shows ‘summer sunlight breaching the dense canopy, the soft glow of the moss, clinging to the oak trunks and a delicate Rowan tree, clinging on for survival, nestled amongst its mighty companions’. The photographer adds: ‘It’s a shame that the Rowan wasn’t resplendent with berries – just a few in the top right corner – but [it’s] hardly surprising, considering how little light penetrates through’

Searle notes that the two trees in this marvellous picture, taken in Surrey, 'are bathed in soft, early morning light, with the faintest touch of mist still hanging in the trees beyond'

Searle notes that the two trees in this marvellous picture, taken in Surrey, ‘are bathed in soft, early morning light, with the faintest touch of mist still hanging in the trees beyond’

Cast your eye above and you'll see Searle's current favourite photograph, titled 'Congregation'. He says: 'My favourite image often changes. I think it’s only natural to cast a critical eye over your previous work and I often look back on things and see what could have been done better. It’s often a more recent image that is my current favourite, as is the case now.' Describing the story behind the photograph, which was taken in Surrey, Searle says: 'It was captured a few weeks ago in a local park and although it is a composition I scouted some time ago, I had to wait for just the right weather conditions for it to work'

Cast your eye above and you’ll see Searle’s current favourite photograph, titled ‘Congregation’. He says: ‘My favourite image often changes. I think it’s only natural to cast a critical eye over your previous work and I often look back on things and see what could have been done better. It’s often a more recent image that is my current favourite, as is the case now.’ Describing the story behind the photograph, which was taken in Surrey, Searle says: ‘It was captured a few weeks ago in a local park and although it is a composition I scouted some time ago, I had to wait for just the right weather conditions for it to work’

Searle took advantage of the 'beautiful, foggy conditions' in the Surrey Hills AONB when he captured this shot, titled 'Sprawl'. He muses: 'I was drawn to the way the light was catching the moss, creating the luminous glow'

Searle took advantage of the ‘beautiful, foggy conditions’ in the Surrey Hills AONB when he captured this shot, titled ‘Sprawl’. He muses: ‘I was drawn to the way the light was catching the moss, creating the luminous glow’

This atmospheric shot, snared in Surrey, is titled 'Evergreen'. Searle muses: ‘There’s something captivating about the ever-modulating nature of woodland. As seasons change or simply [go] through different weather conditions, different relationships between the trees reveal themselves. You can visit the same place over and over and it’s never quite the same’

This atmospheric shot, snared in Surrey, is titled ‘Evergreen’. Searle muses: ‘There’s something captivating about the ever-modulating nature of woodland. As seasons change or simply [go] through different weather conditions, different relationships between the trees reveal themselves. You can visit the same place over and over and it’s never quite the same’

Searle says that he captured this Surrey woodland scene 'in all its foggy splendour'. He explains: 'I love to shoot locally, where possible. Getting out into the mountains is always a great experience, but shooting locally allows me to really get to know an area well, which leads to more photographic opportunities'

Searle says that he captured this Surrey woodland scene ‘in all its foggy splendour’. He explains: ‘I love to shoot locally, where possible. Getting out into the mountains is always a great experience, but shooting locally allows me to really get to know an area well, which leads to more photographic opportunities’ 

Another enchanting forest scene in Surrey, titled 'Golden Bower'. Searle says: 'I spotted this [scene] whilst walking back to the car after a shoot and although I’d noticed these trees and their intricate shapes many times before, it was the light that caught my eye this time'

Another enchanting forest scene in Surrey, titled ‘Golden Bower’. Searle says: ‘I spotted this [scene] whilst walking back to the car after a shoot and although I’d noticed these trees and their intricate shapes many times before, it was the light that caught my eye this time’

Here, you'll see a stunning photograph of what Searle describes as 'an impressive looking old beech tree' in the Surrey Hills area. The photographer reveals that the tree was 'buried deep within a local plantation, kept company by a few old friends'. He says that the scene is 'a relic of a time gone by before the area was re-forested for quick-growing timber production'

Here, you’ll see a stunning photograph of what Searle describes as ‘an impressive looking old beech tree’ in the Surrey Hills area. The photographer reveals that the tree was ‘buried deep within a local plantation, kept company by a few old friends’. He says that the scene is ‘a relic of a time gone by before the area was re-forested for quick-growing timber production’ 

Above is 'S-Curve', which was commended in the 'Your View' category of this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) awards. The image, taken in Surrey, is part of the LPOTY exhibition, which is on show at London Bridge station until January 9, 2022. For more information about Searle's work, visit his website or his Instagram page

Above is ‘S-Curve’, which was commended in the ‘Your View’ category of this year’s Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) awards. The image, taken in Surrey, is part of the LPOTY exhibition, which is on show at London Bridge station until January 9, 2022. For more information about Searle’s work, visit his website or his Instagram page




Archaeologists working on HS2 have shed light on how an Iron Age village in Northamptonshire was transformed into a wealthy Roman trading town bustling with traffic almost 2,000 years ago. 

Stunning discoveries made during a dig of the site near the village of Chipping Warden – known as Blackgrounds after the black soil found there – include cremation urns, gaming pieces, shackles, a snake-head brooch and more than 300 Roman coins. 

Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC when it was made up of more than 30 roundhouses, but that it greatly expanded during the Roman era around 300-400 AD, with new stone buildings and roads. 

A team of around 80 archaeologists working on the HS2 high-speed rail project have spent 12 months excavating Blackgrounds, which is one of more than 100 sites to have been examined between London and Birmingham since 2018.

Experts say the remains of the Roman trading town mark ‘one of the most significant archaeological sites’ uncovered during the controversial £100 billion train line project. 

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an ‘unprecedented’ amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route, to ensure concrete isn’t dumped over the secrets of Britain’s past. 

This excavation work offers a ‘unique opportunity’ to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although so far its construction been hugely controversial for its destruction of historic buildings and nature spots. 

Walls of domestic building are pictured here uncovered during the excavation at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date near a small village in South Northamptonshire

Walls of domestic building are pictured here uncovered during the excavation at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date near a small village in South Northamptonshire

Pictured is remains of a Roman wall at the Blackgrounds site. Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC - during the Iron Age

Pictured is remains of a Roman wall at the Blackgrounds site. Evidence suggests the settlement was established in about 400 BC – during the Iron Age

Photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman lead die (left) and bone gaming pieces uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds

Photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman lead die (left) and bone gaming pieces uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds

Pictured is decorative Roman pottery uncovered at the site. A team of around 80 HS2 archaeologists have spent 12 months excavating the site

Pictured is decorative Roman pottery uncovered at the site. A team of around 80 HS2 archaeologists have spent 12 months excavating the site

Roman coins. More than 300 Roman coins have been found at the site, which is just north of the village of Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire

Roman coins. More than 300 Roman coins have been found at the site, which is just north of the village of Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire

This photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman female deity scale weight uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds, so-called for the black soil found there

This photo issued by HS2 shows a Roman female deity scale weight uncovered during the archaeology excavation at Blackgrounds, so-called for the black soil found there 

Roman cremation urns still covered in soil. The Iron Age village developed into a wealthy Roman trading town, according to archaeologists

Roman cremation urns still covered in soil. The Iron Age village developed into a wealthy Roman trading town, according to archaeologists 

Pictured is a decorative Roman snake-head brooch with intricately carved details. Experts were left stunned when they came across evidence of the Iron Age settlement

Pictured is a decorative Roman snake-head brooch with intricately carved details. Experts were left stunned when they came across evidence of the Iron Age settlement 

Chipping Warden is a village in Northamptonshire, England. The upcoming HS2 route will pass to the northeast of the village

Chipping Warden is a village in Northamptonshire, England. The upcoming HS2 route will pass to the northeast of the village

TIMELINE OF THE SITE 

· 800BC: The Iron Age begins

· 400BC: Iron Age village established at Blackgrounds

· AD43: The Romans invade Britain, led by Emperor Claudius.

· AD50: Roman settlement established.

· AD300-400: The settlement expands to where current excavations are taking place

· AD410: The Roman Empire begins to crumble and the settlement at Blackgrounds declines

 

The presence of such a significant archaeological site in the area has been known since the 18th century, but recent geophysical surveys have revealed the original Iron Age part of the site and the artefacts from the Roman settlement. 

Site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, which has been excavating the site, said the dig had ‘surpassed all expectations’. 

‘This is certainly one of the most impressive sites MOLA Headland Infrastructure has discovered whilst working on the HS2 scheme,’ West said. 

‘A particular highlight for me has been understanding the emerging story of Blackgrounds, which we now know spans multiple time periods.

‘Uncovering such a well-preserved and large Roman road, as well as so many high quality finds, has been extraordinary and tells us so much about the people who lived here.

‘The site really does have the potential to transform our understanding of the Roman landscape in the region and beyond.’ 

Running through the site is a Roman road measuring 32 feet or 10 metres wide, which is huge by typical Roman standards – most Roman roads were around 13 feet (4 metres).  

Another image of the Roman lead die surrounded by bone gaming pieces uncovered during the HS2 archaeology excavation

Another image of the Roman lead die surrounded by bone gaming pieces uncovered during the HS2 archaeology excavation

Pictured are Roman weaving accessories. There are a number of archaeological sites being explored across Northamptonshire, including Blackgrounds, Edgcote battleground and a deserted medieval village at Radstone

Pictured are Roman weaving accessories. There are a number of archaeological sites being explored across Northamptonshire, including Blackgrounds, Edgcote battleground and a deserted medieval village at Radstone 

Photo issued by HS2 shows the numerous Roman artefacts, marked and stored in bags and plastic containers during excavation work

Photo issued by HS2 shows the numerous Roman artefacts, marked and stored in bags and plastic containers during excavation work

A lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route, at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on January 10, 2022 in Northamptonshire

A lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route, at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on January 10, 2022 in Northamptonshire

Environmental Processor and Analyser Donna Brady examines dried samples of animal bone and charcoal from the HS2 route

Environmental Processor and Analyser Donna Brady examines dried samples of animal bone and charcoal from the HS2 route

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) programmes manager Claire holds a lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) programmes manager Claire holds a lead weight, cast into the shape of a head, which was unearthed on the HS2 route

Finds and environmental Processor Rob Pearce cleans and separates the contents of the sample buckets taken from the route, in a series of Siraf tanks

Finds and environmental Processor Rob Pearce cleans and separates the contents of the sample buckets taken from the route, in a series of Siraf tanks

MOLA's Clare Finn explains the drying process needed for the trays of samples from the HS2 route. Artefacts were discovered by archaeologists working for HS2, the high-speed rail project, at the Blackgrounds Roman-era trading settlement

MOLA’s Clare Finn explains the drying process needed for the trays of samples from the HS2 route. Artefacts were discovered by archaeologists working for HS2, the high-speed rail project, at the Blackgrounds Roman-era trading settlement

Urbs Roma coin from the reign of Emperor Constantine, showing the depiction of Romulus and Remus and commemorating the founding of Rome

Urbs Roma coin from the reign of Emperor Constantine, showing the depiction of Romulus and Remus and commemorating the founding of Rome

A Roman pot held by one of the site's workers. The original use of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

A Roman pot held by one of the site’s workers. The original use of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

WHY IS HS2 CONTROVERSIAL? 

HS2, which is estimated to cost more than £100 billion , aims to provide a high-speed rail service linking London and northern England. 

But according to Wildlife Trusts, construction of HS2 is resulting in the loss of ancient woodlands, nature reserves, wildlife refuges and more. The charity calls HS2 ‘a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage’. 

Critics question whether HS2 is worth its ballooning price tag especially after a pandemic that might permanently change people’s travel habits.

The first phase linking London and Birmingham is due to open between 2029 and 2033, according to HS2 Ltd.   

The width indicates that the settlement would have been very busy with carts simultaneously coming and going to load and unload goods – a ‘very active area’. 

The wealth of the settlement is likely to have been based on trade, both from the nearby River Cherwell and via the Roman road. 

The discovery of over 300 Roman coins is an indication that a significant volume of commerce was passing through this area as the village developed into a wealthy town.  

The archaeologists also found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln.

Other artefacts found during the dig highlighted the wealth of the inhabitants, such as glass vessels, highly decorative pottery, jewellery and even traces of the mineral galena – a substance that was crushed and mixed with oil to be used as make-up.

A particularly interesting discovery in the dig has been half a set of shackles, similar to those recently found at an excavation in Rutland. 

Unlike those uncovered in Rutland, the shackles found at Blackgrounds are not associated with a burial but may suggest the presence of either criminal activity or slave labour. 

Roman shackles (pictured) were also discovered, suggesting that criminal activity or slave labour were part of the settlement

Roman shackles (pictured) were also discovered, suggesting that criminal activity or slave labour were part of the settlement 

Unspecified decorative Roman artefacts. The history of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

Unspecified decorative Roman artefacts. The history of Blackgrounds began in the Iron Age when it was a village formed of over 30 roundhouses

A Pewter plate. In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln

A Pewter plate. In one part of the site, the earth is bright red, suggesting the area would have been used for activities involving burning, such as bread-making, foundries for metal work or a kiln

The Blackgrounds site has undergone a geophysical survey by a team of archaeologists and has been further evaluated through trial trenches which are small slip trenches

The Blackgrounds site has undergone a geophysical survey by a team of archaeologists and has been further evaluated through trial trenches which are small slip trenches

Blackgrounds consists of the Iron Age settlement, which was unknown until experts conducted geophysical surveys, and the Roman settlement. 

Researchers had wanted to establish whether the Iron Age site and Roman site existed independently of each other, or if the Iron Age settlement continued to exist into the Roman period.

Evidence suggests the latter, with the Iron Age settlement acting as a starting point for Roman operations to greatly ramp up. 

‘The opportunity to carefully examine a site such as Blackgrounds, and map out a long history of the site, brought to life through artefacts, building remains and roads, has enabled us to provide a more in-depth understanding of what life was like in rural south Northamptonshire in the Iron and Roman Age,’ said Mike Court, lead archaeologist for HS2. 

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts.

The episode featuring the Blackgrounds dig will air on BBC Two today, January 11, at 8pm.  

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route

Before HS2 workers build bridges, tunnels, tracks and stations, an unprecedented amount of archaeological work is taking place along the line of route

A discovered well at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date

A discovered well at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. Archaeologists working for HS2 Ltd have uncovered one of the most significant archaeological sites on the project to date

The layout suggests the town was split into different areas, with foundations uncovered of buildings used for domestic purposes and more industrial practices

The layout suggests the town was split into different areas, with foundations uncovered of buildings used for domestic purposes and more industrial practices

Excavation work along the HS2 route offers a unique opportunity to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although it's been controversial for ripping up historic buildings and nature spots

Excavation work along the HS2 route offers a unique opportunity to tell the story of Britain, according to HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, although it’s been controversial for ripping up historic buildings and nature spots

An aerial view of the well discovered at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. The archaeologists found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

An aerial view of the well discovered at the Blackgrounds Roman archaeological site. The archaeologists found the settlement divided into domestic and industrial areas, with evidence of workshops, kilns and well-preserved wells.

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts

The history of the site, from the Iron Age to the Roman era, features in the new BBC Digging for Britain series, hosted by Professor Alice Roberts

Blackgrounds is one of over 100 archaeological sites that HS2 has examined since 2018 between London and Birmingham, which combined provide a detailed insight into the rich history of Britain

Blackgrounds is one of over 100 archaeological sites that HS2 has examined since 2018 between London and Birmingham, which combined provide a detailed insight into the rich history of Britain

The removed artefacts are being cleaned and analysed by specialists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure and the details of the buildings and layout of the settlement are being carefully mapped

The removed artefacts are being cleaned and analysed by specialists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure and the details of the buildings and layout of the settlement are being carefully mapped

Roman Wall showing signs of subsidence - when the ground beneath a building sinks, pulling the property's foundations down with it

Roman Wall showing signs of subsidence – when the ground beneath a building sinks, pulling the property’s foundations down with it

Pictured is site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, with the Roman well

Pictured is site manager James West, from the Museum of London Archaeology Headland Infrastructure, with the Roman well

HS2 COSTS SOARED ANOTHER £1.7 BILLION IN PAST YEAR DUE TO COVID – WITH TOTAL BUDGET SWELLING TO £106 BILLION 

The cost of the controversial HS2 high-speed rail project has increased by a further £1.7billion over the past year due to social distancing measures and work suspensions caused by the pandemic.

Coronavirus and lockdown restrictions first imposed in March last year disrupted work at most HS2 sites, causing further delays which have put even more strain on the UK’s biggest infrastructure project.

Similar pressures have been reported by industry experts in projects ranging from Crossrail and the A303 Stonehenge tunnel to the Tideway tunnel and the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset.

As a result of work suspensions, social distancing measures, and reduced productivity over this year, costs have soared by around £1.7billion – another increase on the project’s estimated £106billion budget.

Opposition to the project is mounting, with local anger contributing to the Tory by-election defeat in Chesham and Amersham. The new line is due to run through the Buckinghamshire constituency. 

The costs associated with Phase 1 of the line between London and Birmingham have increased by as much as £800million, people close to the project told the FT. 

That increase follows an £800million rise announced by HS2 in October, including money spent on remediating the terminus site at Euston in London. 

The price of the Birmingham Interchange station also rose by £100million to £370million even before contractors have been appointed.  

One contractor close to the project said that HS2 Ltd, the state-funded body responsible for delivering the line, ‘doesn’t really know how much Covid has added’. HS2 Ltd declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.  

Construction started on Phase 1 of the London to Birmingham line in August last year after more than a decade of planning. But the ballooning costs could add to Treasury fears that HS2 will be a black hole for taxpayers. 

The Department for Transport conceded to MailOnline that there had been ‘unavoidable costs’ arising from the coronavirus pandemic.