Gruesome evidence of a massacre dating back thousands of years have been uncovered by British scientists.

The remains of victims - including children - were uncovered in La Hoya in Spain's Basque Country.

It is thought they were killed between 350 and 200 BC, with at least one decapitated by invaders.

Researchers from the University of Oxford studied 13 skeletons from the ancient burial ground, which was discovered in 1935.

Teresa Fernández-Crespo, who led the study, said: "One male suffered multiple frontal injuries, suggesting that he was facing his attacker.

It is the first time a full study has been carried out on the massacre site

"This individual was decapitated but the skull was not recovered, and may have been taken as a trophy."

It is the first detailed analysis to be carried out on those who died.

A man and woman had their arms cut off, while one man was stabbed from behind, archaeologists concluded.

The gruesome attack on La Hoya happened 2,000 years ago
The study has given fresh insight into the sickening way victims died

Researchers wrote: "From this we can conclude that the aim of the attackers was the total destruction of La Hoya."

It was a key strategic location on Spain's Atlantic coast, they said.

The town is believed to have been protected by high walls to prevent attack.

Ms Fernández-Crespo said: "The new analysis of the human skeletal remains from La Hoya reminds us very forcefully that the prehistoric past was not always the peaceful place it is sometimes made out to be."

The town is believed to have been abandoned after the attack.

No weapons were discovered to suggest that those who died had been able to defend themselves, the research stated.