51 headless men in 1,000-year-old English execution pit may be Vikings

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Washington, July 29 (ANI): Archaeologists have found the bodies of 51 young men, their heads stacked neatly to the side, in a thousand-year-old pit in southern England, with a number of researchers saying that the men might be Vikings.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the mass burial took place at a time when the English were battling Viking invaders.

Archaeologists are now trying to verify the identity of the slain.

The dead are thought to have been war captives, possibly Vikings, whose heads were hacked off with swords or axes, according to excavation leader David Score of Oxford Archaeology, an archaeological-services company.

Announced in June, the pit discovery took place during an archaeological survey prior to road construction near the seaside town of Weymouth.

Many of the skeletons have deep cut marks to the skull and jaw as well as the neck. "The majority seem to have taken multiple blows," Score said.he bodies show few signs of other trauma, suggesting the men were alive when beheaded.

The research team suggests that the heads were neatly piled to one side of the pit, perhaps as a victory display.

Unusually, no trace of clothing has been found, indicating the men were buried naked.

Even if their weapons and valuables had been taken "we should have found bone buttons and things like that, but to date we've got absolutely nothing," Score said.

"They look like a healthy, robust, very strong, very masculine group of young males. It's your classic sort of warrior," he added.

The burial has been radiocarbon-dated to between A.D. 890 and 1034.

During this time, England was split between Anglo-Saxons, in the south and west, and Danish settlers, in the north and east.

The team hopes chemical analysis of the buried men's teeth will show whether they grew up in Britain or Scandinavia.

Wear and tear on the bones could also help reveal whether the executed were Viking oarsmen, since "strong physical exertion in a particular direction does affect the bones," Score said.

According to Kim Siddorn, author of 'Viking Weapons and Warfare', the executed men were indeed Vikings.

"I would say this was a Viking raiding party which had been trapped," he said. "They had left their ship, walked inland, ran into an unusually well-organized body of Saxons, and were probably forced to surrender," he added. (ANI)

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