(CBS) – Engineers laying down pipes more than 50 miles outside London found dozens of ancient skeletons. Workers with the U.K. utility company Thames Water uncovered bones believed to be part of a nearly 3,000-year-old settlement in England — and archaeologists believe some of them may have belonged to victims of “human sacrifice.”
Twenty-six human skeletons believed to be from the Iron Age and Roman periods were found in Oxfordshire as the company was working on a project to preserve a rare chalk stream, Thames Water said in a statement. The company said some likely were involved in ritual burials. A spokesperson told CBS News that the discovery was made “several months ago.”
Cotswold Archaeology excavated the site. Chief executive of the organization, Neil Holbrook, saw this dig as a chance to “examine a number of previously unknown archaeological sites.”
“The Iron Age site at Childrey Warren was particularly fascinating as it provided a glimpse into the beliefs and superstitions of people living in Oxfordshire before the Roman conquest,” Holbrook said. “Evidence elsewhere suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice.”
“The discovery challenges our perceptions about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago,” he added.
Evidence of dwellings, animal carcasses and household items including pottery, cutting implements and a decorative comb were also found.
Thames Water is in midst of laying down a new 3.7-mile-long pipeline that will provide water from the Thames River to Oxfordshire villages.