Human skeletons dating back almost 3,000 years have been discovered at an ancient settlement near Wantage.
Researchers from Thames Water found 26 human skeletons alongside a range of other finds during work to protect a rare chalk stream.
These other finds include dwellings, animal carcasses and household items including pottery, cutting implements and a decorative comb.
An initial analysis of the skeletons indicates that many may have been victims of ritual human sacrifices.
Following the discovery, Cotswold Archaeology has removed the items for forensic examination, allowing Thames Water to start laying the six-kilometre pipe which, following consultation with residents, will supply nearby villages with water taken from groundwater boreholes near the River Thames and not 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."
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