A WOMAN'S skull discovered on a river bank by a dog walker dates back up to 2,400 years.

Rogers Evans, of Newtown, Langport, found the well-preserved remains beside the River Sowy, on the Somerset Levels, last March.

He reported it to police and tests showed the skull, missing the lower jawbone, belonged to a woman aged 45 or older from the Iron Age, between 380BC and 190BC.

Last month, the Environment Agency reduced water levels where the remains were found so its archaeologist and South West Heritage Trust could investigate.

No other human remains were found, but the archaeologists discovered nearby a series of timber posts driven into the river bed, which may have been a causeway or raised walkway.

Environment Agency archaeologist Stephen Dean said: "The chance discovery on the banks of the River Sowy has shone fresh light on Somerset’s hidden history.

"It's already added valuable information to the Somerset Historic Environment Record and reinforced our connections with the South West Heritage Trust.

"The Environment Agency’s future work on the River Sowy, carried out on behalf of the Somerset Rivers Authority, will be informed by past discoveries such as these and will look to capture more of the area’s rich historical and archaeological story."

Analysis by a human bone expert showed the woman suffered gum disease and tooth loss.

Her diet included coarse material, which had unevenly worn her remaining teeth, and caused severe osteoarthritis in her jaw.

She had also suffered chronic illness or nutritional stress during childhood. Her head appears to have been deliberately removed at, or shortly after death.

Richard Brunning, the South West Heritage Trust archaeologist, said: "Severed heads aren't an unusual discovery for the Iron Age, but the placement of the skull in a wetland beside a wooden structure is very rare, possibly reflecting a practice of making ritual offerings in watery environments."