It was a scene familiar from the killing fields of Iraq or the Balkans, but unheard of in rural Dorset. As the earth-moving machine peeled back a thin layer of topsoil, it exposed a tangled mass of human bones.
Fifty-one young men had been decapitated with swords or axes before their bodies were tossed into a pit. The heads were neatly stacked to one side.
Radio-carbon dating suggests that they were killed between 890 and 1034, when the South of England was pillaged by Viking raiders from Scandinavia. A month after the discovery archaeologists are beginning to piece the story together.