80 Shackled Skeletons Found in Greek Grave After Ancient Mass Execution
Archeologists offered a first image of the site where 80 skeletons in a mass grave with wrists clamped by iron shackles lie in an ancient Greek cemetery
The archaeologists team said that the fossils, which could dated from 632BC, were the result of a mass execution.
But how they got there, who they were and why they appear have been buried with a measure of respect is still a mystery.
They were located in the Falyron Delta necropolis , a large ancient cemetery that was uncovered in the construction of the building of a national opera house and library between central Athens and Piraeus port.
On a rare tour of the site, however, archeologists showed journalists carefully the skeletons, some lying in a long elegant row in the soil dug-out ground, others crammed with each other, arms and feet twisted, their jaws hanging open.
“They have been executed, all in the same manner. But they have been buried with respect,” head of excavations Dr Stella Chryssoulaki said.
“They are all tied at the hands with handcuffs and most of them are very young and in a very good state of health when they were executed.”
Experts hope DNA testing and research by anthropologists will uncover exactly how the rows of people died.
The orderly way they have been buried suggest these were more than slaves or common criminals.
The cemetery dates from between the 8th and 5th century BC.
“It is a period of great unrest for Athenian society, a period where aristocrats, nobles, are battling with each other for power,” Dr Chryssoulaki said.
One of the strongest theories is that they were supporters of Cylon, an Athenian noble and Olympic champion who staged an attempted coup in Athens in 632BC with the help of his father-in-law, the tyrant of Megara.
The coup failed and Cylon hid in a temple of the Acropolis. He managed to escape, but the people who backed him were killed.
“Perhaps with the DNA tests that we will do on these skeletons we may confirm or not this hypothesis that these deceased, these young people could be … part of a coup … an attempt by a noble to take power by force,” Dr Chryssoulaki said.
More than 1,500 bodies lie in the whole cemetery; some infants laid to rest in ceramic pots, other adults burned on funeral pyres or buried in stone coffins.
Unlike Athens’ renowned ancient Kerameikos cemetery, the last resting place of many prominent ancient Greeks, these appear to be the inhabitants of regular neighbourhoods.