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29 June 2011
Ryedale Windy Pits skeletons were ritually killed

A new investigation has revealed that human skeletons discovered in the 19th Century in caves known as the Ryedale Windy Pits on the North York Moors (England) were likely to have been the victims of ritual sacrifice 2,000 years ago. Evidence suggests the caves were used by people from the late Neolithic period, about 4,500 years ago, until the late Romano-British period in the fourth and fifth centuries CE.
     While it has always been clear the bones had experienced some kind of trauma it has taken a new forensic investigation to reveal more about how these people might have met their deaths. The investigation focused in particular on a tangle of 2,000 year-old bones, possibly those of a family, found in Slip Gill Windy Pit in the 1950s.
     It was a trauma in the jaw bone of one of the skulls which could have only been made with a sharp instrument that led to the first conclusion that the victims did not die naturally. The team looked at bones found in neighbouring pits which also showed signs of blunt force trauma as well as a shin bone which had markings that were consistent with the removal of flesh from bone.
     Further examination of one of the skulls from Slip Gill showed similar markings, parallel cut marks, leading to the conclusion that at least one of the victims was probably scalped. The cutting marks on the skull are the final piece of evidence that at least one of the Slip Gill skeletons was almost certainly ritually killed.

Edited from BBC News (27 June 2011)

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