These Legless Romans Suffered A Particularly Horrible Death


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


This pair must have really annoyed somebody. Highways England/Mola Headland Infrastructure

Archaeologists have come across 6,000 years of history during the construction of a new highway in the UK, among which could be the remains of a massive temporary Roman military camp.

Strangest of all, they discovered two skeletons that appear to have suffered an especially grizzly fate. As first reported by The Guardian, the two men had their legs chopped off at the knees after which they were placed in a T-shaped position. Their skulls also appear to be smashed in, although researchers are not clear whether these injuries occurred before or after their deaths.


The duo is believed to have lived at the time of Roman Britain, from 43 to 410 CE, or perhaps slightly later in the Anglo-Saxon era in the 5th or 6th century. This period was estimated by the wealth of Roman artifacts located around the site, including a bunch of pottery and jewelry.

Highways England / Mola Headland Infrastructure

Until further analysis takes place, no one is quite sure why this pair ended up in such an unfortunate situation, but archaeologists on the job have a few theories. They might have had their legs cut off due to superstitious fear, ensuring their undead corpses couldn't rise from their graves and cause terror among the living. Alternatively, they could have simply been tortured as part of a cruel punishment, designed to create fear and warn others not to do the same.  

“Somebody really, really didn’t like these guys,” Jonathan House, an archaeologist with the Mola Headland Infrastructure team, told The Guardian.

The archaeological excavation took place as part of the reconstruction of the A14 road between Cambridge and Huntingdon in the UK. The archaeological work is slowly drawing to a close, but over the past few years, the team has found an incredible number of historical delights, ranging from 19th-century gravestones to a wealth of prehistoric pottery dating from the middle Iron Age onwards (300 to 100 BCE).

An aerial view of part of the site. Highways England / Mola Headland Infrastructure

On top of pots and skeletons from the Saxon and Roman period of Britain, the team has also discovered traces of deserted Middle Age villages. An aerial survey revealed the scars left by medieval roads and buildings that were seemingly abandoned. Some villagers were forced out by the expansion of the royal hunting forest, like a Medieval form of gentrification, however, many more were likely abandoned due to the Black Death.

If you thought that these two suffered a terrible fate, you should check out another recent archaeological excavation that found evidence of a bizarre death ritual in a pit of skeletons in a bog in Denmark.


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