"Painstaking" analysis of teeth from ten of the executed corpses found in a mass grave on the Weymouth Olympic Relief Road last summer has revealed the slaughtered remains may have belonged to Vikings from Scandinavia and the Polar regions.
Isotope tests showed the men had grown up in a cold, non-chalk climate with a predominantly protein-based diet, nodding to research collected on bodies from Swedish and Arctic Circle sites.
Strontium and oxygen samples were used to determine the local geology and climate of their native countries, supported by carbon and nitrogen investigations reflecting their likely eating patterns.
A team from Nottingham examined the skeletons
"Isotopes from drinking water and food are fixed in the enamel and dentine of teeth as the teeth are formed in early life," explained Dr Jane Evans, from Nottingham's NERC Geosciences Laboratory.
"By completing a careful preparation and chemical separation process in the laboratory, the elements are extracted and their isotope composition can be measured."
Isotope testing has located at least one of the bodies to the north of the Arctic Circle
The geographical breakthrough is the latest revelation from the pit of 51 decapitated skulls, found crammed alongside a mass of bones in the re-used quarry.
Studies augmenting the initial radiocarbon tests have narrowed the date of the skeletons to a point between AD910 and AD1030, and experts are continuing to investigate the flurry of stab wounds inflicted on the skulls, spines and torsos of the victims.
The mass war grave was found on the Weymouth Relief Road last summer
"Finding out that the young men executed were Vikings is a thrilling development," said David Score, project manager for Oxford Archaeology.
"Any mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual and presents an incredible opportunity to learn more about what happened in Dorset at this time."
All images: Oxford Archaeology, thehumanjourney.net