Human sacrifice site unearthed

DAVID KEYS

Archaeology Correspondent

Evidence of probable prehistoric human sacrifice has been unearthed at an archaeological site in East Sussex, following the discovery of a Bronze Age temple near Eastbourne.

Archaeologists from University College, London have found part of the skeleton of a child aged around five, an adult leg bone, part of a human skull and a human tooth at a 2,600-2,800-year-old ritual complex located in what used to be an area of marshland between the South Downs and the Channel. The human remains were unearthed together with the deliberately smashed remnants of pots, and the remains ofbutchered cattle, pigs and sheep. Amber beads, part of a bridle, and bronze tools, several of which had also been deliberately broken, were found.

All the items appear to have been dropped or thrown into the marsh from a platform linked to land by a wooden causeway. Timbers from both these structures are now being excavated by a team directed by archaeologist Chris Greatorex of University College London's Field Archaeology Unit.

The site appears to have been a place at which votive offerings were made to the gods. It is likely that, although pottery and animal sacrifices were the most common, more valuable commodities - bronzes and human captives - were also offered up to appease the spirits.

The excavation was raided on Monday night by people with metal detectors who did substantial damage. The excavation team has already carried out an exhaustive metal detector operation on the site.

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