Prehistoric war unearthed in Peak District

Evidence for a hitherto totally unknown prehistoric war has been discovered in northern England. Archaeologists excavating the remains of a large fortified Iron Age settlement at Fin Cop in the Peak District have so far found the skeletons of nine victims of what they believe was a massacre which took place around 2400 years ago.

However, they suspect that dozens of other victims may still lie buried there. Poignantly, the nine corpses – mainly of women and children – had been thrown into a two metre deep rock-cut ditch originally built to defend the settlement.

Only ten out of 400 metres of the ditch have so far been excavated. So it’s conceivable that the entire rock-cut  dry moat could contain literally hundreds of victims. As well as killing the women and children of the ten acre settlement, the attackers also systematically destroyed it, tearing down the dry stone defences with extraordinary ferocity.

The archaeological investigation – led by Dr. Clive Waddington of  Derbyshire-based Archaeological Research Services in collaboration with a local history group from the village of Longstone – has revealed that the victims’  skeletons and the masonry of the settlement’s defensive wall were all thrown into the rock-cut ditch at exactly the same time.

Most of the bodies were located between  layers of stone which had been thrown into the ditch and which had made impact marks on their bones.

The victims were two women in their 20s, another adult of unknown gender, four babies, one toddler – and a teenager who had been cowering at the bottom of the ditch when he or she was buried under the cascading masonry.

Significantly, Fin Cop was probably not the only settlement to suffer from the attackers. For just a few miles way, at Bakewell, another fortified village appears to have been similarly destroyed.

The archaeologists are puzzled by the apparent absence of adult males at Fin Cop. It’s possible that the village’s warriors had left the settlement to attack the enemy but had been defeated, thus leaving  the women and children relatively defenceless. But it’s also possible that the males weren’t killed because they were valuable as slaves required for heavy manual labour.

Nothing is known about the geo-politics of the period, so archaeologists have no real idea as to who the conflict was between. However, later on in the Iron Age, the territory was certainly a border or buffer zone between two major tribal groups, the Brigantes (literally the Pennine ‘Highlanders’) and the Corieltauvi.

The area around Fin Cop and Bakewell was of  potentially considerable importance from a natural resource point of view – being rich in lead ore, a crucial mineral needed for the manufacture of various metal alloys.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence