His life was not easy at all. In his early twenties he was already suffering from spinal problems after a life of hard work, arthritis and a serious rib injury. But none of that ended his life. What killed her was a deep cut on her neck that was made with a knife more than 2,000 years ago.

Furthermore, his remains were not treated very respectfully. The young woman was found at the Winterborne Kingston site, in central Dorset (England), lying face down on a strange crescent-shaped arrangement of animal bones deliberately built at the bottom of a well.

Archaeologists from Bournemouth University who have been working at the prehistoric site for more than 15 years believe that the girl was murdered as part of a ritual ceremony, as they explain in an article published in the magazine The Antiquaries Journal.

Their analysis suggests that the young woman was in her twenties when she died and that she had led a physically demanding and hard-working life. They also discovered that she suffered damage to one of her ribs, possibly inflicted through violence, weeks before she was stabbed to death.

The combination of factors suggests that this is a rare case of human sacrifice in Iron Age Britain, using a person who belonged to one of the lowest strata of the social hierarchy of the time.

Although human remains had already been discovered buried in tombs and pits, this case seems very different. “In the other burials, the deceased appear to have been carefully placed and treated with respect, but not this poor woman,” explains Dr. Martin Smith, associate professor of Forensic and Biological Anthropology.

“We have also found ceramic vessels and evidence of pieces of meat next to human remains, which we believe are offerings for the afterlife. But with this girl there was none of that. The young woman was lying face down on a pile of animal bones, so it looked like she was part of an offering,” she added.

Analyzing the bones, archaeologists found that his spine showed signs of degeneration and arthritic changes significant for his young age. He also had damage to some of the discs between his vertebrae. This indicates great effort due to regular hard work, experts say.

He also had well-developed and resistant muscle insertions, which is another sign of rigorous and continuous physical activity. The isotopes in her teeth allowed us to identify where she got her drinking water as her teeth were developing when she was a child.

This suggested that the girl was not local, but had grown up more than 20 miles from the Winterborne Kingston settlement. Investigators are now conducting DNA studies to determine if she was brought to the site as an outsider from another community.

“All the significant facts we have found, such as the problems with her spine, her hard working life, the serious injury to her ribs, the fact that she could have come from somewhere else and the way she was buried, could be explained in a simple way. isolated,” says Dr. Smith.

“But when you put all the elements together, including his deposit face down on a platform of animal bones, the most plausible conclusion is that he was the victim of a ritual slaughter. And, of course, we found a large cut mark on his neck that could be the smoking gun,” he added.

Archaeologists at Bournemouth University highlight that, as well as providing evidence of human sacrifice, being able to understand the lives of Iron Age women has been important, both in terms of telling their individual story but also to better understand the less fortunate members of society in the past.

“The burials that receive the most attention tend to be those of privileged and higher-status people,” Martin Smith explained. “However, being able to humanize this woman’s story has given us valuable insight into the other side of Iron Age society. Behind every ancient burial we find there is someone’s life waiting to be told,” he concludes.