A skeleton believed to be a murder victim from the Iron Age has been discovered by archaeologists working on the HS2 project in Buckinghamshire.
HS2 said that the grisly find was unearthed during the excavation work at Wellwick Farm near Wendover when the archaeologists found the skeleton of an adult male buried face down in a ditch with hands bound together under his pelvis.
The unusual burial position suggests the iron age man may have been a victim of a murder or execution, it added.
Osteologists are currently examining the skeleton for further evidence of foul play, HS2 said.
Other discoveries at the site span over 4,000 years of human history, including a circular timber monument resembling the layout of Stonehenge.
Project Archaeologist Dr Rachel Wood said: “We already knew that Buckinghamshire is rich in archaeology but discovering a site showing human activity spanning 4,000 years came as a bit of a surprise to us.
“The death of the Wellwick Farm man remains a mystery to us but there aren’t many ways you end up in a bottom of a ditch, face down, with your hands bound.
“We hope our osteologists will be able to shed more light on this potentially gruesome death.
“The large wooden ceremonial structure, the Roman lead burial and the mystery of the skeleton at Wellwick Farm helps bring alive the fact that people lived, worked and died in this area long before we came along.”
The archaeological works have revealed evidence of human activity dating from the Neolithic to the Medieval period, a time spanning around 4,000 years, HS2 said.
A large circular monument of wooden posts 65 metres in diameter with features aligned with the winter solstice, similar to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, was also uncovered as well as a skeleton in a coffin lined in lead, it added.
HS2 said that the buried individual must have been someone of high status to have the means to pay for such an expensive method of burial.
Its lead archaeologist Mike Court said the discoveries will be shared with communities and the public through virtual lectures, open days and in an upcoming documentary.
He added: “Before we build the low-carbon high-speed railway between London and Birmingham, we are uncovering a wealth of archaeology that will enrich our cultural heritage.
“The sheer scale of possible discoveries, the geographical span and the vast range of our history to be unearthed makes HS2’s archaeology programme a unique opportunity to tell the story of Buckinghamshire and Britain.”
The announcement of the discovery comes at the start of the Festival of British Archaeology, an annual event taking place over nine days between July 11-19 where HS2 will be hosting digital events showcasing recent archaeological discoveries.