Cotswold archaeologists have discovered dozens of decapitated skeletons as part of work for HS2.

In total, 425 bodies were exhumed by HS2 archaeologists in a large Roman cemetery discovered on the route of the high-speed railway.

The 50-strong team from Cotswold Archaeology and Oxford Archaeology (COPA) found that around 10 per cent of the bodies were beheaded, with several instances of the head being placed between the legs or next to the feet.

COPA senior project manager Richard Brown said: “The excavation is significant in both enabling a clear characterisation of this Roman town but also a study of many of its inhabitants.

“Along with several new Roman settlement sites discovered during the HS2 works it enhances and populates the map of Roman Buckinghamshire.”

Cotswold Journal: Archaeologists made the discovery at a Roman cemetery in BuckinghamshireArchaeologists made the discovery at a Roman cemetery in Buckinghamshire

As HS2 is not required to rebury them, the bodies have been taken in for further analysis.

A spokesman of HS2 Ltd has said the reason for the beheaded bodies could be that they were “criminals” or “outcasts”, but added that decapitation was a “normal, albeit marginal” part of burial during the late Roman period, towards the end of 410 AD.

Also discovered at the cemetery in Fleet Marston were more than 1,200 coins, domestic objects such as spoons, pins and broaches, as well as gaming dice and bells, suggesting gambling and religious activity took place here.

Cotswold Journal: One of the decapitated bodies discovered by archaeologists One of the decapitated bodies discovered by archaeologists

Fleet Marston, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, is one of more than 100 archaeological sites examined by HS2 since 2018 on the route of the first phase of the railway between London and Birmingham.

HS2 Ltd’s head of heritage Helen Wass said: “The HS2 archaeology programme has enabled us to learn more about our rich history in Britain.

“The large Roman cemetery at Fleet Marston will enable us to gain a detailed insight into the residents of Fleet Marston and the wider Roman Britain landscape.

“All human remains uncovered will be treated with dignity, care and respect and our discoveries will be shared with the community.”