Executed Iron Age bodies from Roman battle found in pit on Olympic transport route

By Culture24 Staff | 12 June 2009
  • News
  • Archived article
A picture of skulls in a muddy pit

The grave (above) is believed to contain victims of a Roman massacre. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

A 2,000-year-old mass grave full of dismembered bodies and skulls has been discovered at an ancient burial site being dug up to create a road for the 2012 Olympics.

Archaeologists excavating the Weymouth Relief Road, on Ridgeway Hill near Weymouth, believe the pit of corpses comprises Iron Age war casualties massacred by the Roman Army.

A picture of men in green jackets digging up a pit

The road is being dug as part of transport links for the Olympics. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“We have counted 45 skulls so far in one section of the pit, and several torsos and leg bones in separate sections,” said David Score, Project Manager for Oxford Archaeology.

“It's very early days but so far, after a visit to the site by our head of burial services, the skulls appear to be predominately those of young men.

A picture of a hand painting skulls in a muddy pit

Torsos and bones feature. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“At the moment we don't fully understand how or why the remains have come to be deposited in the pit, but it seems highly likely that some kind of catastrophic event such as war, disease or execution has occurred."

Score’s gory finds on the £87 million transport route to the proposed “Olympic Village” are an unprecedented follow-up to the discovery of 12 skeletons at the site in January, when he predicted the team “could find anything” while stripping the soil back.

A picture of an archaeologist in visible dress digging a pit

Archaeologists have been working at the site for months. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

“It is rare to find a burial site like this one,” he added. “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.”

Dorset County Council said the development was “extraordinary”, and Head of Highways Andy Ackerman warned the public to stay away from the six-metre pit, which has been fenced off.

A picture of archaeologists carrying out measurements on a pit

Dorset County Council has ringfenced the pit and warned the public to stay away. Picture courtesy Oxford Archaeology

The skeletons will be taken to Oxford for further analysis before being offered to a Dorset museum.

See a video of the January excavation here.

Related listings (94)
See all related listings »
Related resources (194)
See all related resources »
Related collection items (8)
See all related collection items »

Events

  • 1 mile
  • 2 miles
  • 3 miles
  • 4 miles
  • 5 miles
  • 10 miles
  • 20 miles
  • 50 miles
  • Any time
  • Today
  • This week
  • This month
  • This year

advertisement