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Mystery over 80 skeletons, some with ‘hands tied behind backs’, found at building site

Bodies may be those of prisoners and will be radiocarbon-dated

Jane Dalton
Thursday 09 September 2021 17:37 BST
Related video: Archaeologists dig up 3,000 skeletons at London site
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Experts are trying to solve the mystery behind dozens of skeletons, some with their hands tied behind backs, that were discovered in a mass grave at a Buckinghamshire building site.

Around 80 bodies were found in late 2019 on land being prepared for a new retirement development.

The pandemic slowed down building work at the site, but the skeletons will be radiocarbon-dated, The Independent understands.

Experts know the skeletons date from between Roman times and the 18th century.

But they were not buried in an “organised” cemetery or given a Christian burial.

One theory proposed last year was that the bodies may date back to Anglo-Saxon times or the English Civil War. Another is that they could be the bodies of criminals who were hanged on the gallows.

Initially, treasure-hunters raced to the site, at West End Farm, Buckingham, but archaeologists quickly removed the historic remains.

No precious items were buried with the bodies, it’s understood.

District and town councillor Robin Stuchbury said last year: “This find is of great historical significance to Buckingham and it should not be hushed up.

“I am aware that the bodies were found in December. There were more than 40 of them and they had their hands bound behind their backs, which infers they were prisoners of some kind.”

Historian Ed Grimsdale told the BBC he believed they were Anglo-Saxon and it could be “one of the biggest finds” of its kind.

A source told The Independent it was not unusual for bodies to be found “ad hoc” but that the findings would be reported after the specialist archaeological experts had carried out their analysis.

Buckinghamshire Council will discuss calls for an investigation into what has been done at the site at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Buckinghamshire Live reports.

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