October 26, 2020

Iron Age ‘mystery’ murder victim found in Wendover HS2 dig

Iron Age skeleton Image copyright HS2
Image caption The man could have lived as much as 2,500 years ago and may have been murdered or executed. The clay soil helped preserve his skeleton

An Iron Age skeleton with his hands bound has been discovered by HS2 project archaeologists, who believe he may be a murder victim.

The remains of the 2,000-year-old adult male was found face down at Wellwick Farm near Wendover in Buckinghamshire.

Project archaeologist Dr Rachel Wood described the death as “a mystery” and hopes further analysis will shed light on the “potentially gruesome” find.

A Stonehenge-style wooden formation and Roman burial have also been discovered.

They are among a number of finds ranging from the Neolithic Age to the Medieval period unearthed ahead of construction work for the 225mph (362 km/h) rail line.

Image copyright HS2
Image caption The archaeologists also found an Iron Age funerary monument, which would have been used only by “high status people”
Image copyright HS2
Image caption This Iron Age gold coin called a stater dating from about about 100BC was found in a ditch near the funerary monument

Dr Wood, who works for Fusion JV, said: “Discovering a site showing human activity spanning 4,000 years came as a bit of a surprise to us.”

A large Neolithic circular monument of wooden posts 65m (213 ft) in diameter and aligned with the winter solstice, “similar to Stonehenge”, was uncovered.

The site also has evidence of domestic occupation during the Bronze to Iron Ages (3000BC to AD43), including a roundhouse and animal pits.

Image copyright HS2
Image caption The Roman burial was found in a square enclosure. The skeleton was in a coffin lined with lead and probably had a wooden outer layer
Image copyright HS2
Image caption The Neolithic wooden circle, dating to between 4,000 to 5,000 years old, is seen as further evidence of the site’s ritual importance over thousands of years

During the Roman era it was used for burials and a “high status” skeleton buried in an “expensive” lead coffin was unearthed.

Dr Wood said the fascinating thing about the site was its “persistent use over centuries for the burial of specific, high status people”.

The only exception was the Iron Age skeleton.

Dr Wood said: “The death of the Wellwick Farm man remains a mystery to us, but there aren’t many ways you end up in a bottom of a ditch, face down, with your hands bound.

“We hope our osteologists will be able to shed more light on this potentially gruesome death.”

Image copyright HS2
Image caption Jewellery including brooches and this ring were discovered. Experts believe it could date to the Iron Age

The HS2 high-speed rail link will connect London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

It is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe, but has been delayed and faced concerns over the exact route and spiralling costs.

Its official price tag in 2015 was £56bn but the latest figure was reported to be rising to £106bn.

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