Duncan - Archaeologists working in Derbyshire have this month reported the discovery of a mass grave on an Iron Age hill fort. Dr Clive Waddington of Archaeological Research Services described how a series of burials, dated to around 390BC, indicated something of a massacre occurred at Fin Cop.

Diana - Fin Cop, tell me more!

Duncan - Well, it's located in the Peak District and it's thought that construction started sometime around 440BC so this is a few centuries before the Romans arrived. It was a huge structure with a 400m long, 2m deep perimeter ditch, with 4m wide and high limestone walls. So clearly the owners of this fort were either very keen to impress or very afraid of what lay outside.

Diana - Why do we think such a fort was built to impress rather than defend?

Duncan - It's something that many archaeologists working in the British Iron Age have found; that building forts had more to do with power, show and prestige than actual fighting. Up till now there's been sparse evidence of warfare during this period. But Fin Cop is different. In the single 10m section of ditch that the archaeologists have excavated they've found bodies of women - one of which appeared to have been thrown in with her baby and remains of the wall-, there were also children and a teenage boy in the ditch. And they think there are potentially hundreds more bodies in the remainder of the unexcavated ditch.

Diana - So presumably, these bodies would have been cast into the ditch following some sort of raid. It's a little macabre, but apart from the prestige theory - why haven't remains like this been found at other Iron Age hill forts?

Duncan - This site is quite special because the soil is very alkaline, meaning that the two-thousand-year-old remains are quite well preserved. It may be that, at other sites, any similar remains would have simply been dissolved over time by more acidic soil.


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