Archaeologists working on Roman and Iron Age settlements in Wintringham, a town near York, England, discovered a number of decapitated skeletons, according to a report by BBC Saturday.
The team, which hailed from Oxford Archaeology, found 17 skeletons dating back to the third century C.E.. 11 of the skeletons had their skulls positioned at their feet. The skeletons were also buried with pottery, a customary burial practice of the time.
“These results add greatly to our understanding of the local landscape’s history which we can now share with local communities,” Patrick Moan, an Oxford professor of archaeology and the project manager, told the BBC.
However, so far the significance of the decapitations is unclear.
Archaeologists also discovered a number of interesting artifacts from both Roman and Iron Age times at the site. An Iron Age settlement included 40 houses and structures related to farming, while the Roman settlement included a cache of coins, pottery, and jewelry, as well as agricultural tools like millstones.
This is not the first time a mass burial of decapitated individuals has been found in England.
In June 2021, English archaeologists discovered 18 decapitated Roman-era skeletons, with several buried with their skulls at their feet, reported the New York Times. Researchers on the site postulated that this was a typical capital punishment in Roman times, which increased as the Roman hold over England waned. Romans had also used decapitation in the killing of enslaved people, human sacrifices, fertility rituals, and trophy taking, experts said.
Last year, 40 decapitated skeletons were found just 50 miles away from London, Smithsonian Magazine reported in February.