Twenty-six human skeletons dating back almost 3,000 years ago have been discovered in Oxfordshire.
Thames Water’s £14.5m project to ease pressure on a chalk stream near Wantage led to the discovery believed to be from the Iron Age and Roman periods.
Workers found an ancient settlement containing an array of historic artefacts as they prepared to lay new water pipes which will relieve pressure on Letcombe Brook.
The finds included 26 human skeletons with some likely to have been involved in ritual burials.
There was also evidence of dwellings, animal carcasses and household items including pottery, cutting implements and a decorative comb.
Cotswold Archaeology removed the items for forensic examination, which means Thames Water can start to lay the six-kilometre pipe that will supply nearby villages with water taken from groundwater boreholes near the River Thames rather than Letcombe Brook.
Neil Holbrook, chief executive of Cotswold Archaeology, said: The new Thames Water pipeline provided us with an opportunity to examine a number of previously unknown archaeological sites.
The Iron Age site at Childrey Warren was particularly fascinating as it provided a glimpse into the beliefs and superstitions of people living in Oxfordshire before the Roman conquest.
Evidence elsewhere suggests that burials in pits might have involved human sacrifice.
The discovery challenges our perceptions about the past, and invites us to try to understand the beliefs of people who lived and died more than 2,000 years ago.