ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on an ancient hill fort in the Peak District have made a grisly discovery - a mass grave containing skeletons that could be evidence of an Iron Age massacre.
A burial site containing nine skeletons was discovered in a section of ditch at Fin Cop, at Little Longstone.
Scientists think the bones are the remains of women and children murdered when the fort was attacked or captured and that the grave is the first segregated burial of its kind from the Iron Age.
Hundreds more skeletons could be buried in the pit, only a small part of which has been excavated so far. The fort was built some time between 440BC and 390BC, but was destroyed before completion.
Its stone wall was broken apart and the rubble used to fill the 400-metre ditch which held the remains of women, babies, a toddler and a teenage boy.
Animal bones, also found in the pit, suggested the fort’s inhabitants kept cattle, sheep, pigs and horses.
Dr Clive Waddington from Archaeological Research Services, who directed the excavation, said the findings provide an insight into warfare in pre-Roman Britain.
He added: “There’s been an almost accepted assumption amongst many archaeologists that hill forts functioned as displays of power, prestige and status and that warfare in the British Iron Age is largely invisible.
“For the people buried at Fin Cop, the fort was evidently intended as a defensive response to a very real threat.”
The 2,500-year-old bones are well-preserved due to the area’s limestone geology - many hill forts were built on gritstone or sandstone, which speed up decay.