The isotope composition of tooth enamel and associated dentine and lead concentration was analyzed for strontium and oxygen (enamel) and carbon and nitrogen (dentine) from ten skulls taken from a burial pit found on the Chalk at Ridgeway Hill north of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England. These individuals are a subset of the 51 men in this pit, all of whom had been decapitated. The results from the ten individuals show that they were a diverse group of individuals. ATMS radiocarbon dating of three individuals gave dates that are statistically consistent and their weighted mean, when calibrated, provides a date range of AD 970–1025 (93% probability). The oxygen isotope composition ranges between 13.7‰ SMOW and 16.5‰SMOW, which result in drinking-water values between -15.4‰ SMOW and -9.2‰ VSMOW using the adapted Levinson calculation. They were raised in a climate that is colder than that of Britain, and one man has a signature that is consistent with an Arctic origin. The 87Sr/86Sr isotope signature is also diverse, ranging between 0.71013 and 0.72051. Whereas the high value is typical in areas of ancient cratonic rocks underlying much of Scandinavia, the lower values are less diagnostic and could indicate either a coastal origin or a childhood spent in an area underlain by geologically younger rocks. The dietary signature derived from C and N stable isotope analysis is more consistent with a Scandinavian than British diet for the period. Very low concentrations of lead (Pb) in these individuals indicates that lead was not bioavailable to the extent it was in contemporaneous Britain. We speculate that this group of men might represent the crew of a Scandinavian Viking raiding party that was captured and executed by local inhabitants from the Weymouth area.
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Vol. 2014 • No. sp7