Thirty-seven skeletons found in a mass burial site in the grounds of St John’s College may not be who they initially seemed, according to Oxford researchers studying the remains.
When the bodies were discovered in the grounds of the college in 2008 by Thames Valley Archaeological Services, archaeologists speculated that they could have been part of the St Brice’s Day Massacre in Oxford — a well documented event in 1002, in which King Aethelred the Unredy ordered the killing of ‘all Danes living in England’.
However, a new research paper, led by Oxford University, has thrown up a new theory — that the skeletons may have been Viking raiders who were captured and then executed.
The skeletons were found in the ditch of a previously unknown Neolithic henge monument during excavations. They are mostly of men aged between 16 and 25 who were robust and taller than average. There is evidence that each individual was stabbed many times shortly before he died and severe wounds show they were brutally slaughtered. Some of the men also appear to have older scars, which could suggest that they were professional warriors. There is also evidence of charring on some of the skeletons, showing they may have been exposed to burning before burial.