Archaeologists have uncovered up to 40 decapitated skeletons while excavating a once 'bustling' Roman town along the new HS2 train line.

They found the corpses among 425 burials in a large 2,000-year-old cemetery in Fleet Marston, near Aylesbury.

Around ten per cent of the burials were decapitated - with the head placed between the legs or next to the feet.

Bucks Free Press: Up to 40 skeletons have been uncoveredUp to 40 skeletons have been uncovered

Experts believe the headless skeletons could be criminals or outcasts, but decapitation was sometimes performed as a burial rite during the late Roman period.

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The site, which included some cremated remains, was discovered by archaeologists working on the HS2 train line over the last year.

Other evidence of a "bustling Roman town" was found, including 1,200 coins, spoons, gambling dice and brooches.

Bucks Free Press: The excavations took place along the HS2 site near AylesburyThe excavations took place along the HS2 site near Aylesbury

The settlement, which sits alongside a Roman road, is believed to have been used for commercial and industrial activity.

It is also thought to have been a key staging post for travellers and soldiers passing through Fleet Marston on their way to and from the garrison at Roman Alchester, near Bicester.

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

Bucks Free Press: Archaeologists found incredible relics from the pastArchaeologists found incredible relics from the past

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

Fleet Marston is one of over 100 archaeological sites that HS2 has examined since 2018 between London and Birmingham

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

Bucks Free Press: Some of the artefacts were perfectly preservedSome of the artefacts were perfectly preserved

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"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.

Bucks Free Press: Incredible details have survived thousands of yearsIncredible details have survived thousands of years

"HS2’s archaeology programme seeks to engage with all communities both local and nationally to share the information and knowledge gained as well as leaving a lasting archival and skills legacy.”

Experts will carry out a post-excavation analysis on the skeletons to find out their origins, diet, family links, lifestyles and beliefs.