Massacre at fort revealed

Kate Mapplethorpe, osteoarchaeologist with the skull of a 15 yrs old male found at the Iron Age hillfort of Fin Cop Derbyshire  ' 'See Story Jeni HarveyPicture Chris Lawton '18 April  2011
Kate Mapplethorpe, osteoarchaeologist with the skull of a 15 yrs old male found at the Iron Age hillfort of Fin Cop Derbyshire ' 'See Story Jeni HarveyPicture Chris Lawton '18 April 2011

FOR centuries, people have walked the green and pleasant land of Fin Cop in the Peak District, blissfully unaware of the grisly, barbaric history beneath their feet…

But a two-year community dig has unearthed evidence of a brutal massacre at the iron age hill fort, in Little Longstone, after archaeologists discovered the remains of four babies, a toddler, three women and a teenage boy.

They were slaughtered after the hill fort – designed to protect them – was attacked and captured during warfare.

Their bodies were dumped in a ditch at the site, which dates back to between 440BC and 390BC.

Senior archaeologist Jim Brightman said: “It’s all quite gruesome and brutal.

“We were just blown away by all those human remains.

“Before the excavation, we joked about it, saying the limestone geology would preserve lots of skeletons – but we didn’t expect this horror.

“Currently, we’ve excavated ten metres of ditch – but in total, there’s 400 metres – so the site could be a grave to hundreds more skeletons.”

Mr Brightman added that the dig did not uncover any remains of adult men, suggesting they were sold on as slaves or pressed into military service.

Excavations were carried out by Longstone Local History Group under the direction of Archaeological Research Services Ltd and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Peak District National Park Authority and English Heritage. Hundreds of school children and volunteers helped with the digs.

Ann Hall, from Longstone Local History Group, said: “Locals viewed the hill as a peaceful spot. Now we have uncovered the sad evidence of an ancient massacre – and we have learned that our well-loved landmark is a prehistoric war grave.”