A VIKING war grave has been discovered on the Ridgeway between Wey-mouth and Dorchester.

The ancient remains of decapitated skeletons were unearthed during the construction of the Weymouth Relief Road and were confirmed today as being that of the legendary Norse invaders.

Experts are staggered by the findings – revealed after lengthy scientific tests – because it is the first physical evidence of the warriors in this part of Britain, as well as being the best example of a Viking burial pit in the country.

Piecing the parts of the 900-year-old puzzle together, archaeologists revealed the 50-strong Viking party was captured by the local Saxon population, taken to the Ridgeway and had their heads chopped off.

The heads and the bodies were then buried separately in a pit close to where the A354 main road stands.

To find a mass grave on this scale is said to be rare and will help historians to unlock the secrets about Dorset’s dark past.

Dorset County Council senior archaeologist Steve Wallis said: “There’s documentary evidence to suggest Vikings were here but nothing quite so physical.

“The significance of this is that we can see some of the people involved.

“This could well have been a raiding party who were caught by surprise.”

Mr Wallis added: “It’s a great find but when you think about it, it’s quite horrible how these men died. Some of them have wounds on their arms suggesting they tried to defend themselves.

“This is a great record of a very unpleasant and rapid execution – a small episode of history.”

The gruesome discovery was made last June but it is only now, after months of painstaking analysis, that the Viking link could be made.

The remains are said to date to between AD910 and AD1030.

Detailed examinations of 10 of the skeletons, focusing on the men’s teeth, were carried out by Dr Jane Evans and Carolyn Chenery at NERC Isotope Geosciences Laboratory, part of the British Geological Survey, based in Nottingham.

Isotope results from the teeth reveal the men grew up in countries with a colder climate than Britain, with one individual thought to be from north of the Arctic Circle.

The isotopes also show they had eaten a high protein based diet, comparable with known sites in Sweden.

Dr Jane Evans said: “Isotopes from drinking water and food are fixed in the enamel and dentine of teeth as the teeth are formed in early life.

“By completing a careful preparation and chemical separation process in the laboratory, the elements are extracted and their isotope composition can be measured.

“The isotope data we obtained from the burial pit teeth strongly indicate that the men executed on the Ridgeway originated from a variety of places within the Scandinavian countries.”

She added: “These results are fantastic. This is the best example we have ever seen of a group of individuals that clearly have their origins outside Britain.”

Oxford Archaeology – contracted by the county council to undertake the archaeological work throughout the relief road scheme – expected to uncover some artefacts along the route because preliminary survey work had been undertaken before earthworks began.

Bronze Age burial grounds were discovered near Bincombe Bumps before Christmas 2008.

But the discovery of the burial pit on Ridgeway Hill last year was seen as significant.

When it was found, the pit was put under 24-hour security and the public warned to stay away.

Specialists will continue to examine the remains to try and piece together the story of the pit.

It is hoped further evidence about the demographic make up, lifestyles, activities, general health and diets of the warriors will come to light.

It is hoped the skeletons will eventually be put on display at Dorset County Museum.