A high-speed train project has led to the gruesome discovery of dozens of decapitated corpses just outside a major metropolis.
UK archaeologists announced the discovery of about 40 2000 years decapitated corpses buried in an ancient Roman village unearthed during the construction of the HS2 project, an hour north-west of London.
Along with village ruins, artifacts and ancient coins, they found burial sites for more than 400 people, about 10% of whom had been beheaded. They could have been outcasts or criminals, authorities said, but the nature of their beheadings was not entirely clear.
Some of them had their skulls placed between their legs or at their feet, according to the researchers.
“One interpretation of this funerary practice is that it could be the burial of criminals or some type of outcast, although beheading is well known elsewhere and appears to have been a normal, albeit marginal, funeral rite in the end of the Roman period,” HS2 said in a statement over the weekend.
Researchers expect to learn more about Britain’s Roman era and how people once lived there.
“Any human remains discovered will be treated with dignity, care and respect and our findings will be shared with the community,” said Helen Wass, heritage manager at HS2 Ltd.
Research teams also uncovered ancient pottery, an ancient lead mold, and other tools and ornaments.
HS2 said it also found hundreds of ancient coins, suggesting “trade and commerce” in the city, which was located along an ancient route between the ancient Roman cities of Verulamium, now St. Albans , and Corinium Dobunnorum, now Cirencester.
The HS2 rail system is a planned cross-country high-speed line. Since 2018, HS2 has investigated around 100 archaeological sites, including the village of Fleet Marston.
A team of more than 50 archaeologists began excavating the site last year, according to project organizers.
Climate change activists have protested against the rail project, demanding that the government halt construction. Last month, London police evicted a group of them from a city park, where they had set up camp to demand an end to the project.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.