Hundreds of skeletons have been unearthed at a popular beach which was once home to the burial ground of a medieval chapel.
Archaeologists have found the remains of around 200 people who are believed to belong to a Christian community which dates back to the sixth century.
A six-week excavation is now well underway at Whitesands Bay, near the city of St David’s in Wales, after erosion and storms uncovered the skeletons.
The bodies, which were found in an area which was once used as the cemetery for a chapel called St Patrick’s, will be stored at the National Museum of Wales.
Scientists from the University of Sheffield, who have been working to preserve the remains, say they are from men, women and children of all ages, reports Wales Online.
They found that every body was buried with the head pointing west and no possessions, in line with early Christian burial traditions, and some were found in graves known as cists, which were lined and capped with stone slabs.
Jenna Smith at Dyfed Archaeological Trust, which is leading the dig, said the preservation of the bones is “absolutely incredible” because they have been completely submerged in sand.
She told the BBC: “It’s really important that we do so because it gives that snapshot in time which we don’t normally get in Wales.
“The bone doesn’t normally exist and the main reason that we’re here is because we are here to stop the bones and the burials from eroding into the sea.”
The dig is due to finish on July 16, when the site will be backfilled, but Dyfed Archaeological Trust is looking to excavate as much of the cemetery site as possible, due to concerns about further erosion.
Archaeologists have been interested in the area for more than 100 years and recent excavations, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, identified more than 90 burial sites.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority tried to protect the Scheduled Ancient Monument in 2004 by placing large boulders on the dunes to prevent further erosion, but they were washed away by the sea 10 years later.