1,000-Year-Old Massacre Uncovered in England : Discovery News
Sunday, March 14, 2010 4:27:09 AM
A macabre and forgotten episode from the Dark Ages has been uncovered by British researchers after they examined dozens of beheaded skeletons.
Mystery surrounded the identity of the victims since they were discovered by accident last June near Weymouth, Dorset, England, when workers at a 2012 building site, stumbled across a burial pit.
The grave contained a mass of bones and 51 skulls neatly stacked in a pile.
Scientific tests have now revealed that the individuals, all males mostly in their late teens or early 20s, were likely Viking raiders who were brutally executed 1,000 years ago.
Indeed, chemical analysis of teeth from 10 of the men showed they originated from a variety of places within the Scandinavian countries, with one thought to have come from within the Arctic Circle.
The tests showed they had high protein diets similar to those known from sites in Sweden, one of the Viking homelands.
Captured by Anglo-Saxon locals some time between 910 and 1030 A.D., a time when Vikings were raiding throughout Britain and Europe, the Vikings met a horrible death at a public execution.
"It was not a straight one slice and head off. They were all hacked at around the head and jaw. It doesn't look like they were very willing or the executioners very skilled," Ceri Boston, an expert in ancient bones who examined the remains, told the "London Times."
"We think the decapitation was messy because the person was moving around. One man had his hands sliced through. It looks like he was trying to grab hold of the sword as he was being executed," Boston said.
The researchers, who are still examining the remains, also found that some individuals suffered various wounds such as a cut to the pelvis, blows to the chest and stomach, all thought to relate to the process of decapitation.
"The burial pit took us all by surprise and its story gets more fascinating as the analysis goes on," Angus Campbell, leader of Dorset County Council, said.
Video and photo: courtesy of Dorset County Council.