EVIDENCE of a mass execution of young men thousands of years ago has been unearthed in a ‘remarkable’ archaeological find during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road.

Experts are staggered by the discovery of the dismembered skeletons which are thought to date between late Iron Age to early Roman times.

Oxford Archaeology – contracted by Dorset County Council to undertake all the archaeological work throughout the relief road scheme – expected to uncover some artefacts because preliminary survey work had been undertaken before the earthworks began.

This included the finds at the Bronze Age burial grounds near Bincombe Bumps before Christmas.

But the latest discovery on Ridgeway Hill is seen as significant.

Council chiefs say the burial pit is strictly out of bounds to the public and the site is under 24-hour security. They stressed the development would not hold up work on the relief road as the pit is to the side of the main earthworks.

Oxford Archaeology project manager David Score and his team made the find when hedgerows were pulled up as the bulldozers moved in.

Mr Score said: “The watching brief system means that we don’t miss anything of importance and in this case we have found a remarkable burial pit.

“We have counted 45 skulls so far, these are in one section of the pit, and several torsos and leg bones in separate sections of the pit.

“It is rare to find a burial site like this. There are lots of different types of burial where skeletons may be aligned along a compass axis or in a crouched position, but to find something like this is just incredible.”

Mr Score said it was likely the remains were deposited in the pit due to a ‘catastrophic event’ such as war, disease or execution. The skulls appear to be predominately those of young men, he said.

The remains will be taken to Oxford for detailed analysis where experts will try to piece together the story.

Archaeological finds from the Weymouth Relief Road will be offered to a Dorset museum after analysis work has been completed.

Dorset County Council Head of Highways Andy Ackerman said: “It’s standard practice for major schemes to ensure that archaeological investigations are undertaken. We take this responsibility very seriously and have been working closely with Oxford Archaeology to ensure that appropriate time is programmed into the construction timetable.

“Knowing that the care taken has helped lead to this exciting discovery makes the effort very worthwhile.

“I’d ask members of the public to continue to stay away from the archaeological works.

“The burial pit is within the construction site which can be a dangerous environment.”