London Romans Piled Skulls in Pits

Some may have been gladiators' remains
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2014 6:34 AM CST
London Romans Piled Skulls in Pits
Romans apparently filled open pits with heads, a study suggests.   (Shutterstock)

Slob Romans living in ancient London, it seems, just left decapitated heads lying around in open pits for years, a study suggests. "It is not a pretty picture," a researcher tells the Guardian. "At least one of the skulls shows evidence of being chewed at by dogs, so it was still fleshed when it was lying in the open." Nearby, "we have evidence of lots of shoe making, so you have to think of the cobbler working yards from these open pits, with the dog chewing away—really not nice."

The findings come from a new study on 39 skulls excavated in London in 1988. Researchers believe some belonged to people killed in an amphitheater, meaning they could have been gladiators or criminals forced to duke it out. Others may have been the remains of enemies killed outside London. But researcher Rebecca Redfern tells the Independent: "The level of violence here exceeds the level needed to kill someone." The skulls mainly belonged to young men. "Most people in 2nd-century London lived peaceful quiet lives—but as we now know, not everyone. This is a glimpse into the very dark side of Roman life," Redfern adds. (More London stories.)

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