June 13, 2009

Ancient Mass Grave Found Under British 2012 Olympic Site

An ancient burial pit of dismembered bodies has been found under a road being built for the 2012 British Olympics, and is suspected to be a mass war grave from Roman times.

Recently beginning the site excavation, archaeologists have not yet determined who the bones might belong to.

Dig leader, David Score, of Oxford Archaeology said, "We think that these dismembered bodies are likely to be native Iron Age Britons. The question is "” how did they die and who killed them."

"Were they fighting amongst themselves? Were they executed by the Romans? Did they die in a battle with the Romans?

"The exciting scenario for us possibly is that there were skirmishes with the invading Romans and that's how they ended up chopped up in a pit," he told Reuters.

When the main Roman invading force arrived in Britain in AD 43, Claudius' legions quickly swept through western England to counter the brutal Celtic tribes.

The skulls and various other bones were exhumed at Ridgeway Hill, on the construction site of a new major relief road to Weymouth, on the Dorset coast in southwest England.

The seaside town will be hosting sailing events for the future London Olympics.

The grave site is located near Europe's largest Iron Age hill fort, Maiden Castle, where local tribes are believed to have taken a final stand against the Roman legions following the invasion.

Some historians believe the Romans were responsible for decimating the area, slaughtering everyone including women and children before ultimately reducing it to ashes.

Score reported having already found 45 skulls in the pit 6 yards wide, alongside a mess of torsos, arms and legs. They expect to find even more as the excavation progresses.

Most of the skulls were identified as belonging to young men, which reinforces the theory that they were killed in battle or in a mass execution.

"One of the things that we will be looking for is do they have sword cut marks on the bones, and how were the heads dismembered: prior to or after death in an act of victory," Score said.

Archaeologists are also exploring the possibility that the bodies belong to Roman citizens or indigenous people who died of disease or disaster.

There have not been many artifacts found with the bones, however pottery shards dating back to the Iron Age and early Roman period have been found strewn around the pit.

"It is rare to find a burial site like this one," Score said. "There are lots of different types of burial where skeletons may be aligned along a compass axis or in a crouched position, but to find something like this is just incredible."


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