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Weymouth Relief Road burial pit update Print E-mail

Skulls in situ
Radiocarbon dating from the Ridgeway mass burial has revealed an exciting new date for the remains, the decapitated skulls which were originally thought to be Iron Age or early Roman due to pottery from this period found in the burial pit, however, radio carbon dating places the remains between AD 890 and AD 1030 or the late Saxon period

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score said:

“There was very little other evidence in the pit apart from a few sherds of pottery. In order to clarify the date of the remains we sent off a sample of bone for urgent radio carbon dating and amazingly the date which has come back is in the late Saxon period. This result really highlights the important part that scientific techniques play in modern archaeological investigations."

“The time period we’re now looking at is one of considerable conflict between the resident Saxon population and invading Danes. Viking raids were common and there were a series of major battles in the south of England as successive Saxon kings and Viking leaders fought for control."

“The burial location is typical of places used for executions during this time; in a prominent location and next to a main road and a parish boundary. However, the large number of individuals and method used make it unlikely that normal criminal justice is being practised in this instance."

“It is hoped that further radio carbon dating will be able to define the date range much more closely and other scientific techniques such as isotope analysis may be able to establish the origin of the individuals;
were they Saxons or Vikings?”

They have carefully removed the decapitated skulls from the ground – 51 in total – which were placed in one distinct area of the pit.

Bodies to go with the skulls have been found randomly placed in the pit, which is thought to be an older quarry used out of convenience rather than one dug for the burial.

overview of pit
Angela Boyle, senior osteologist, said:

“All the remains uncovered are male and the overwhelming majority are aged from their late teens to about 25 years old, with just a small number of older individuals. As a general group they are tall, robust in stature with
good teeth and appear to have had healthy lifestyles."

“Most of the skulls exhibit evidence of multiple blows to the vertebrae, jawbones and skulls with a large, very sharp weapon such as a sword. The lack of any other finds, such as those associated with clothing,
indicates that they may have been naked when thrown into the pit. Samples of soil are being taken from around the bodies to test for indications of textiles which have rotted away.”

overview of pit
excavations ongoing
recording of the burials
Careful excavation of the remains is continuing and a more detailed analysis of the bones will be undertaken.