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Ancient Greek murder victim was a muscular warrior.

Muscular Ancient Murder Victim Had Perfectly Circular Hole Punched In His Chest

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Somewhere around 2,000 years ago on a Greek island, a very strong man had a seven-pointed spear, known as a styrax, thrust through his chest with such a violent force that it punched a perfectly circular hole in his sternum.

Murder Victim Discovered in Mass Grave

The man's remains were found in 2002 amidst a mass- grave of 57 bodies by archaeologists excavating a section of an ancient necropolis in Thasos, the northernmost Aegean island . According to a report in Live Science , this ancient murder case is being studied by Professor Anagnostis Agelarakis, who is an anthropologist at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York who told reporters “The way that the [ spear's] penetration took place in [reference] to the bone, it is an exact 90-degree angle against the sternum.”

The ancient murder victim was discovered in a mass grave. (Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

The ancient murder victim was discovered in a mass grave. ( Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

The study, due to be published in a forthcoming issue of  Access Archaeology will claim that the ancient spear was probably not thrown from a great distance , gaining the required velocity to cause the hole in the victims sternum. Rather, it was more likely “thrust inward at close range and done with precision, possibly for an execution”, Agelarakis said. This type of injury would have caused a cardiac shock resulting in cardiac arrest, killing the man in less than a minute.

Mystery of the ‘Muscular Man’

It was suspected that the approximately 0.6 by 0.4-inch hole (1.5 by 1.1 centimeter) was caused by a seven-sided styrax , but how exactly did they prove it? Fortunately for Agelarakis, his wife, Argiro Agelarakis, is a scientific illustrator and anthropologist, also from Adelphi. Thus, Agelarakis had a set of replica weapons cast from a bronze alloy and through experimental archaeology he discovered they didn't form the same circle when they hit the test targets. So, the styrax likely wasn't thrown at the man, Agelarakis concluded.

Sternum of a Hellenistic period man showing stab wound. (Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

Sternum of a Hellenistic period man showing stab wound. ( Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

This idea is supported in an article in Science and Tech Blog where it is observed “Similarly, the guy most likely wasn’t assaulted throughout a fight or battle, due to the fact that he would have most likely flinched when struck, and this would have made the injury various– that is, not an ideal circle.”

Was the Ancient Muscular Man Executed?

The study suggests the man was stood against a wall or was kneeling with his hands tied behind his back, or possibly lying on the ground before the styrax pierced his chest. And if this was the case then this means he was probably executed. Agelarakis “concluded that it wasn't something that was hurled but [that] it was something that was steadied first on the sternum and then, with extreme force, penetrated.”

Ballistic model created to test the force and direction of a styrax injury. (Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

Ballistic model created to test the force and direction of a styrax injury. ( Anagnostis Agelarakis / Adelphi University)

The physics department at Adelphi University confirmed that extreme force was applied to have pierced the man's sternum, “a force exceeding 2,200 newtons, which is equivalent to about 500 lbs. (227 kilograms) of weight.” Experts are currently unclear as to why the man was executed, but the dental analysis confirmed this suspicion, because as the man approached death his diet declined, suggesting he was a captive in his last days.

On Left - Drawing of the seven-pointed styrax that killed the ancient man. On Right – Close up of styrax spear. (Anagnostis Agelarakis / CC BY-SA 4.0)

On Left - Drawing of the seven-pointed styrax that killed the ancient man. On Right – Close up of styrax spear. ( Anagnostis Agelarakis / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Closely studying bone marks caused by muscles, Agelarakis determined that the man was “muscular”, and an anatomical analysis has informed the researchers that the man stood about 5 feet, 7 inches (170 centimeters) tall. Furthermore, the results of dental examinations confirmed that he was at least 50 years old when he died.

The man's remains indicated that he suffered joint pain through an inflammation known as spondyloarthritis, as well as osteoarthritis. Attempting to account for the man’s muscles and repetitive injuries, Agelarakis suggests the man must have been a swimmer and a runner, so it can be speculated that he might have been a trained gladiator or may have served with the navy.

Top image: Ancient Greek murder victim was a muscular warrior. Source: serhiibobyk / Adobe.

By Ashley Cowie

Comments

It could have come from him wrestling with someone or something and fell on something that caused that.

The hole in the sternum looks consistent with one made by a sauroter, the iron spike rear ending of an ancient spear. The model on the other hand shows the weapon thrust not through sternum but between the ribs, technically an easier and more efficient way for an execution, although it should have been directed rather to the left side of the chest.

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