Skeletons Mark Historic Gladiator Graveyard

York remains show evidence of lion bites

By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 7, 2010 3:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists have determined that a puzzling collection of skeletons discovered in England is the best-preserved Roman gladiator graveyard ever found. Lion bites, headless corpses and hammer marks on skulls are clues that the 80 skeletons found over a decade were gladiators buried in York, which was a Roman provincial capital some 1800 years ago. The men were young and well developed with notably stronger muscles in the right arm, a condition in slaves trained from childhood to fight in the arena, notes the Guardian.

"Anthropologically speaking, the material is particularly significant because it includes such a broad spectrum of healed and unhealed injuries associated with violence," said a forensic anthropologist who has tested some of the remains. "Nothing like the bite marks has ever been identified before on a Roman skeleton." Some of the men were apparently buried with gifts for the afterlife as the best gladiators were honored much like today's top athletes.

Rome - Roman Coliseum Arch   (©David Paul Ohmer)
The skeletons found in York show signs that the men once fought for their lives as gladiators.   (?jean-louis zimmermann)
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We don't have any other potential gladiator cemeteries with this level of preservation anywhere else in the world. It is a unique Roman burial assemblage. - Forensic anthropologist Michael Wysocki

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