Archive for March 12th, 2010

Confirmed: beheaded warriors were Vikings

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Mass grave of decapitated VikingsScientists have confirmed that 54 decapitated bodies found last July in a mass grave near Weymouth, Dorset, were indeed Vikings.

Isotope analysis of their tooth enamel confirmed that they came to Dorset from Scandinavia. At least one of the beheaded men lived most of his years in the Arctic circle, in fact. They probably came to England in a raiding party and encountered Saxon resistance. Effective Saxon resistance.

Archaeologist believe the men were from a captured raiding party and were taken to the site by Anglo-Saxons defending their land for the specific purpose of putting them to death. Ms Boston added: “The location is a typical place for a Saxon execution site, on a main road and a parish boundary and close to prehistoric burrows.”

Teeth from ten individuals were examined by Dr Jane Evans and Carolyn Chenery at NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory in Nottingham. Dr Evans said: “Isotopes from drinking water and food are fixed in the enamel and dentine of teeth as the teeth are formed in early life. The isotope data we obtained from the burial pit teeth strongly indicate that the men executed on the Ridgeway originated from a variety of places within the Scandinavian countries.

“These results are fantastic, this is the best example we have ever seen of a group of individuals that clearly have their origins outside Britain.”

Their deaths were not easy ones. Bone evidence indicates that their necks and jaws were hacked at repeatedly, not removed in one clean blow. One body’s hands were cut through, probably a defensive wound incurred while trying to grab the sword that was coming for his neck.

Others were wounded on the pelvis, stomach and chest. There are more bodies than heads, which suggests that 3 heads might have been put on spikes or displayed outside of the grave in some gruesome manner.

The research team also narrowed down the date a death a little more, to from between 910 and 1030 A.D., so towards the end of the Viking raid period. By 1016, Danish King Cnute had conquered most of England and the raids stopped, mainly because he was the boss of the raiders too.

Scientists are hoping to learn from further studies of the remains, like more details about their long-term health issues, diets, general lifestyle.

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