Archaeologists made an amazing - yet grisly - discovery when they unearthed the skeleton of a Roman man with his feet bent backwards in order to fit in to his coffin. 

The skeleton was uncovered at Woodsford Quarry, Dorchester, by experts from Thames Valley Archaeological Service (TVAS), who have been carrying out excavations at the site for several years. 

They found a grave set in stone sarcophagus - a type of stone coffin typically found within ancient civilisations – and inside, the well-preserved bones of a man in his late 20s or 30s.

The man would have been about 5ft 10in tall and an examination showed no signs of disease – but the team will carry out more tests to find out what happened to him. 

The grave was among 11 other burials but, as none of the others had sarcophagi, no bones survived.  Director of TVAS, Dr Steve Ford, said: "In the Roman period, burial in a sarcophagus was moderately common in Italy but very unusual in Britannia, where even wooden coffins seem to have been rare. 

“A stone sarcophagus was certainly a very prestigious item, and their distribution across the country is restricted. Only around 100 are known and it is believed that this might be only the 12th to come from Dorset, with 11 others all from Poundbury. 

“It is possible that the practice reflects a folk memory of a longer tradition in the South West, however, where stone lined cist burials can be traced back to the New Stone Age around 3000 BC.

“In fact, this sarcophagus may have been reused, as it was several centimetres too short for the corpse, whose feet had to be tucked under him.”

TVAS, working for Hills Quarry Products, discovered that the site was once farmed and used as a settlement as far back at the Bronze Age – about 4,000 years ago.

The team has previously found items which date from the late Iron Age to the Roman periods, roughly between the first century BC and the fifth century AD.

Andrew Liddle, divisional director of Hills Quarry Products, said: “After the skeleton is analysed by experts it will be donated, along with all of the finds from the site, to Dorchester Museum with kind permission from the landowner.”