A DECAPITATED body has been pulled out of the ground at a small housing development in Wanborough.
The skeleton, which was buried in a shallow grave, is thought to date back around 1,700 years, at a time when a Roman farming settlement occupied the area.
Archaeologists believe the person would likely have been a criminal, executed and dumped just outside of the town.
Further tests are now being conducted in Reading to determine the exact age of the remains, before the body is handed over to the care of Swindon Museum.
Excavation work around the Wanborough Gardens development has been ongoing for some time, and archaeologists on the site say there have been some fascinating discoveries.
Melanie Pomery-Killinger, chief archaeologist at Wiltshire Council, said the work is now nearing completion.
“There have been some very interesting finds coming out, dating from the Roman period,” she said. “We suspect there was Roman settlement on the site.
“Recently the remains of a skeleton were found in a shallow grave. There is no coffin, only a body in a dug grave.
“It appears quite interesting because it has been decapitated, and the skull was found behind the knee.That is normally done when someone is a criminal or miscreant of some kind.
“The features we have found on site suggest this was not at the heart of the settlement. Normally people would be brought out of the settlement and buried by the road if they had done something wrong. The settlement proper would have been further up the hill.
“We have known Wanborough is very interesting for some time. We already know about a small Roman town which is currently intersected by the A419, and there was a big Roman presence there throughout the 4th century AD.
“What we have here is a small farming community with some industrial activity. We have also found earlier pottery dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, so the indication is there was another settlement nearby.
“They were in relatively good condition, and were found around 30 to 50cms below the ground surface layout. While most features have been shallow, there are also deeper features such as ditches which indicates this was an area outside the main settlement.”
A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey, the developers leading the 12 home development, said the body had been handed over to Thames Valley Archaeological Services.
He said: “Further testing will be carried out over the coming weeks in conjunction with Wiltshire Council’s archaeologist to establish the age of the remains, following which a full report will be presented to Swindon Council.”