New evidence of the brutish and short lives of Stone Age Britons has been revealed by researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Central Lancashire.

Carbon dating of 14 human remains discovered at a prehistoric burial site suggests that most could have died together in a massacre, possibly in a scramble for land or a cattle raid.

The prehistoric chambered long barrow where the remains of 14 people were discovered. Credit: Cardiff University

The ground breaking techniques date the remains of the bodies, discovered at Wayland's Smithy in Oxfordshire in the 1960s, to within a decade or so, between 3590 BC and 3560 BC. .

Professor Alasdair Whittle, Cardiff School of History and Archaeology said, "Up to now prehistorians have tended to emphasise long-term change, in search of long-running or underlying processes at the expense of shorter- term events and succession. This dating programme will help direct the study of prehistory to get much closer to people."

The tip of a flint arrowhead was found embedded in the pelvic bone of one body and two of the bodies had been scavenged and partially dismembered by dogs or wolves before their remains were buried. The new evidence suggests that the period between 3625 BC and 3590 BC may have been one of increasing social tension and upheaval.

Source: Cardiff University.