Dorset’s Archaeology in 150 Words #2: Ridgeway Hill Viking Burial Pit

In 2009, Oxford Archaeology were contracted to investigate a 50,000m2 area along the route of the new Weymouth relief road. The major discovery was a mass grave of 54 decapitated skeletons and 51 associated heads found on Ridgeway Hill. The skeletons were dated AD970-1025 and were all males mostly between late teen-age and 25 years old. Isotope analysis of teeth from ten skeletons found these men originated from across Scandinavia.

With the burial pit being located on an Anglo-Saxon parish boundary during a time of local Viking invasions, it has been suggested that this was a formal execution of captured Vikings who had launched an attack on the area. On the otherhand, Dr Britt Baillie, from University of Cambridge, has put forward that the killings could have been the consequence of an order from Aethelred the Unready to kill all Danish men in England which culminated in the St Brice’s Day massacre of November 1002.

dcc ridgeway

Oxford Archaeology’s publication Given to the Ground: A Viking Age Mass Grave on Ridgeway Hill, Weymouth was published in 2014.


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