In June 2009, archaeologists made a shocking discovery in the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset, England.
While excavating in preparation for the anticipated Weymouth Relief Road, archaeologists discovered a mass grave containing the remains of 54 dismembered skeletons, and 51 skulls in a pile within a disused Roman quarry.
This curious find led many to wonder who these individuals were, and why they were killed in such a gruesome manner.
Through scientific testing and analysis, archaeologists concluded that the remains belonged to Scandinavian Vikings.
The sheer size of this burial is particularly surprising, as “[a]ny mass grave is a relatively rare find, but to find one on this scale, from this period of history, is extremely unusual,” said David Score of Oxford Archaeology centuries.
The deaths likely occurred during, and as a result of, conflict between the Anglo-Saxons and Viking invaders.
All of the remains are from males mostly aged from their late teens to 25 years old, with a few being somewhat older.
None of the remains show any sign of battle wounds, beyond wounds inflicted during the execution, so it is likely that these men were captives rather than members of the military.
The men appear to have been killed all at the same time, and the executions appear to have been carried out hastily and rather chaotically.
Some of the individuals showed multiple blows and deep cuts to the vertebrae, jawbones, and skulls.
Damage to the hand and wrist bones indicates that some of them may have braced against the execution with their hands.
When the remains were discovered, the skulls, leg bones, and rib bones were arranged into separate piles.
It appeared that the pit had not been dug specifically for this purpose, and that it just happened to be a convenient spot to dump the bodies.
One interesting detail is that there were three fewer skulls than the number of skeletons within the pit.