Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saxon mass burial unearthed in Oxford


"Archaeologists now believe a dozen skeletons discovered in a mass grave in the centre of Oxford may have belonged to executed criminals from Saxon times.

A team of three archaeologists have been digging in the quadrangle of St John's College in Blackhall Road, off St Giles, for nearly two weeks since the discovery was made.

The bones of 12 or 13 bodies have gradually been uncovered after a body part was discovered 80cm below ground level by diggers excavating the plot before a new quadrangle is built.

"They look as if they were all young men in their late teens, and we are looking at Saxon times.

"We originally thought they could be Roman but now we think it could be more recent, based on the condition of the bodies, which survived very well.

"We have no idea how many we will find - they are still popping up."

The archaeologists' job has been made more difficult by the fact the bodies have been thrown on top of one another, rather than laid out neatly like a Christian burial.

"The idea that they might be battle victims is possible, but I think we will only know that if we start finding war wounds on them as they remove them. They are all males of fighting age so it makes sense."