Roman Medicine: 6 Ways People Stayed Healthy In Ancient Rome

“Baths, wine and sex corrupt our bodies, but baths, wine and sex make life worth living”. This inscription – from the tomb of a Roman merchant of Ephesus, Tiberius Claudius Secundus – indicates that, like us, the Romans sought a sensible balance between an enjoyable existence and a healthy one. Dr Nick Summerton shares six tips from ancient Rome for living a healthy life…

They’re known for their roads, military strategy and inventing the book – but what advice might our Roman forebears issue on the subject of staying healthy? Dr Nick Summerton shares six Roman medicine practices…

Take responsibility

The Romans attached great importance to preserving health

The second-century physician Galen emphasised that it was a person’s responsibility to take care of their bodies, writing that people must “take it upon [them]selves to preserve health” by following a particular lifestyle (or `hygiene`). He highlighted the importance of taking fresh air and getting enough sleep, in addition to carefully considering diet, exercise and hydration. Galen certainly led by example, writing: “After I reached the age of twenty-eight, having persuaded myself that there is an art of hygiene, I followed its precepts for the rest of my life and was never sick with any disease apart from the occasional fever.”

It was seen as extremely important to tailor the ‘hygienic approach’ to individuals, ensuring that a person was not under-or over-emphasising any specific element as part of their health plan. As Galen explained: “For just as it is impossible for cobblers to use one last for all people, so too it is impossible for doctors to use one plan of life that is beneficial to all. Because of this, then, they say it is most healthy for some to exercise sufficiently every day, whereas for others, there is nothing to prevent them passing their lives wholly in idleness. Also, for some it seems to be most healthy to bathe, whereas for others it does not.”

What were the four humours?

The Romans believed that all matter within the universe – including human bodies – was made from four elemental substances (fire, air, water and earth) and four elemental qualities associated with them (hot, cold, wet and dry). It was thought that the human body contained four corresponding humours – blood (hot and wet); yellow bile (hot and dry); black bile (cold and dry); and phlegm (cold and wet).

These four humours needed to be in the correct amounts and strengths for a body to be healthy. The proper blending and balance of the four humours was known as ‘eukrasia’ – whereas imbalance of humours – or `dyskrasia` – led to disease. Illness occurred when there was an imbalance of the four humours in the body. ‘Hygiene’ (which was used in a slightly different sense to its definition today) was about restoring the normal equilibrium of humours and qualities – thereby preventing disease and preserving health.

Eat a healthy diet

Food and fresh air were key to good health

Much like today, a healthy diet was considered part of a balanced health plan. Recent evidence based on an examination of material from several Roman sewers has shed some light on the foodstuffs being consumed by the average Roman. By modern standards, the diet of the population in Herculaneum at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius was extremely healthy and mineral rich, containing high levels of seafood and vegetable protein. (In fact, the residents of Herculaneum probably ate considerably more fish than are consumed by the area’s population today!)

Gardens were also popular with the Romans and, aside from cultivating plants and vegetables, had a much broader role in enhancing well being. In one of his letters, Pliny the Younger described walks along tree-lined pathways and avenues edged by box hedges at his villa in Tuscany. He also commented on the wholesome air with splendid views, cool breezes and sweet aromas.

Choose your doctor carefully

The Romans were wary of placing too much trust in physicians

The Roman historian Pliny the Elder cautioned his fellow citizens about trusting the medical profession – especially the Greeks: “Physicians acquire their knowledge from our dangers, making experiments at the cost of our lives. Only a physician can commit homicide with complete impunity.”

Despite numerous references to ‘physicians’ across the Roman empire, it is often unclear what led to an individual acquiring the title ‘doctor’. There were no examinations, no diplomas, no degrees and no professional licensing procedures in the Roman world; a doctor was simply an individual who claimed the title and carried out treatment for some type of remuneration.

Also, for the Romans, the concept of having a personal professional physician was an anathema. It was at odds with the Roman values of self-sufficiency and looking after your own. On Roman farms the head of the household (pater familias) assumed the role of chief healer with responsibility for the health of his family and any estate workers. As the scholar and agriculturalist Varro explained: “There are two divisions […] in the treatment of human beings: in the one case the physician should be called in, while in the other even an attentive herdsman is competent to give the treatment.”

An array of ancient Roman surgical instruments at the British Museum, c1910. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The exact circumstances when the advice of a physician might be sought are somewhat vague. However one of the writing tablets discovered at Vindolanda, a Roman auxiliary fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall, suggests that the women of military families were expected to deal with the day-to-day health problems that arose in their households. They kept a selection of medicines on hand for this purpose. Paterna, the wife of the garrison prefect at Vindolanda, supplied medicine to her sister, Lepidina: “I shall supply you with two remedies”, she wrote in a letter to her – one of which was for fever.

Unfortunately, for the Roman patient, there were no lists of approved practitioners that could be checked for those wishing to enlist the help of a physician. To get an insight into a doctor’s abilities (and perhaps for entertainment, too), it was not unusual to attend public displays of anatomical skills or to watch medical competitions. In addition, Roman medicine was often practised in public with many folk clustering around the bed of a sick individual, critically scrutinising the care being proffered. Galen outlined how strangers even joined in on house visits: “Boethus seized me and took me along home to see the boy. People who met us in the street, of whom you were one, also came.”

Look after your eyes

Eye problems were a particular concern for Romans

To the Romans the eyes were a privileged body part, and the transition point between the soul and the outside world. Several representations of eyes – in gold, bronze and plaster – have been found at Wroxeter in Shropshire. Such religious votive objects were left in anticipation of a cure or as an offering of gratitude.

Inadequate hygiene and dusty roads would have contributed to the large numbers of individuals with eye problems. A military strength report of the First Cohort of Tungrians from Vindolanda specifically categorises the 31 soldiers signed off as unfit into three distinct groups: aegri (sick  – 15); volnerati (wounded – 6); and lippientes (eye troubles – 10).

Two dozen oculist (or collyrium) stamps have been discovered in Britain – including two at Wroxeter. These small green stones were used for impressing the name of the maker as well as the nature and purpose of an eye treatment onto a hardened block of medication (collyrium). The stamps usually consist of small thin square blocks, generally with an inscription on each of the four edges. In a few instances the stone is oblong with two inscribed sides and in one from Wroxeter, it is circular. The letters are cut in intaglio form and written from right to left so that when stamped on the collyrium they make an impression that reads from left to right.

“Eye problems were a particular concern for Romans,” writes Nick Summerton. This relief shows a Roman physician inspecting the eye of a woman. (Photo by CM Dixon/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

In his De Medicina, the first-century writer Celsus devoted a whole chapter to eye care and provided a very clear description of cataract surgery:

“He is to be seated opposite the surgeon in a light room, facing the light, while the surgeon sits on a slightly higher seat; the assistant from behind holds the head so that the patient does not move: for vision can be destroyed permanently by a slight movement…

“Thereupon a needle is to be taken pointed enough to penetrate, yet not too fine, and this is to be inserted straight through the two outer tunics at a spot intermediate between the pupil of the eye and the angle adjacent to the temple, away from the middle of the cataract, in such a way that no vein is wounded.

“The needle should not be, however, entered timidly… When the [correct] spot is reached, the needle is to be sloped…..and should gently rotate there and little by little guide it [ie, the lens with the cataract] below the region of the pupil.”

Eye couching needles to undertake the procedure have been found at Carlisle and Piddington Roman Villa, Northamptonshire.

Secure expert wound care

The survival rate of Roman soldiers after battle was better than that of their opponents

Slashing and cutting wounds from long swords would have been particularly common injuries for Roman soldiers battling across Britain. Other weapons used by the local tribes included spears, knives, axes, stone sling shot and, less commonly, arrows. The consequences for some unfortunate Roman soldiers were fractures, head and eye injuries – in addition to penetrating abdominal or chest wounds.

All cuts and abrasions needed cleaning and dressing: some others required stitching too. Occasionally, more complicated surgery was necessary to remove bone fragments, stop bleeding or to extract spear points.

Traumatic wounds were at particular risk of getting infected and honey dressings were frequently used by the Romans. The military physician Dioscorides wrote that “honey is cleansing, opens pores, and draws out fluids. Boiled and applied it heals flesh that stands separated”.

First aid is given to a Roman soldier in this frieze. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

A lot of basic wound care would have been provided by fellow soldiers, some of whom – the capsarii – were trained first aiders. The capsarii were under the control of a doctor with the rank of a centurion, such as Anicius Ingenuus, medicus ordinarius of the first cohort of Tungrians from Housesteads, on Hadrian’s Wall.

The repair of a simple flesh wound was the most performed surgical procedure undertaken by individuals such as Anicius Ingenuus. Basic surgical kits consisting of probes, hooks, forceps, needles, cautery tools and scalpels were readily available, and many items have been discovered in excavations at Roman sites across Britain.

Stitching cuts with a needle and thread was not dissimilar to the approach used today, but if there were any concerns about infection or inflammation the fibulae technique was often preferred. This entailed passing copper-alloy skewers through the wound and then looping threads around them in a figure-of-eight fashion. The Roman medical writer and thinker Celsus wrote that “fibulae leave the wound wider open […] in order that there may be an outlet for any humour collecting within”.

Focus on overall wellbeing

To the Romans, physical and mental health were closely linked

Looking after the psyche – or the soul – was viewed as integral to the care of the body and it was a key element of keeping in shape alongside exercise, fresh air, sleep and diet.

Many Romans citizens sought a philosophy of life and one approach popularised by the likes of the emperor Marcus Aurelius was Stoicism. The overriding aim was to replace negative emotions such as grief, anger and anxiety with positive emotions such as joy.

Other individuals, such as the emperor Caracalla, frequented healing sanctuaries. These focused on providing holistic care (including psychological wellbeing) by offering a broad range of treatments, as well as enlisting the assistance of healing deities including Aesculapius.

Across Britain several inscriptions to Aesculapius have been discovered in addition to two healing sanctuaries at Lydney, in Gloucestershire, and Bath, dedicated to Nodens and Sulis Minerva respectively. The site at Lydney has been comprehensively excavated revealing a temple, a guest house, a well-equipped suite of baths and a long narrow building containing many cubicles (abaton).

The abaton was where visitors would have been taken to experience ritual temple sleep and dream healing – termed incubation. During this process priests circulated among the sleepers with serpents or dogs, the curative dreams being augmented by licks from the animals.

At Lydney numerous representations of sacred Irish wolfhounds have been found, in addition to a mosaic decorated with fish and sea monsters bearing the inscription: D M N T FLAVIUS SENILIS PR REL EX STIPIBUS POSSUIT O[PITU]LANTE VICTORINO INTERP[RE]TIANTE (translated as “for the god Mars Nodens, Titus Flavius Senilis, superintendent of the cult, from the offerings had this laid; Victorinus, the interpreter (of dreams), gave his assistance”).

Individuals visiting healing sites would have been subjected to a raft of psychological interventions designed to restore their tranquillity: group therapy, talking therapy, various arts therapies, dream healing; all combined with rest and relaxation. There was also an emphasis on locotherapy – the psychological benefits of locomotion as well as being in a specific place (location). There is evidence for eye care and surgery being undertaken at Lydney too.

Water was also an extremely important element of many sanctuaries and was drunk for its healing properties as well as being used for bathing, hydrotherapy and ritual cleansing. Some sites, such as Bath, were associated with hot springs or waters with specific mineral constituents. At Lydney the iron-rich nature of the waters might have encouraged individuals suffering from anaemia to visit, based on the finding of a votive hand exhibiting koilonychia (spoon-shaped nails), a sign of iron-deficiency.

Nick Summerton is a medical doctor with a longstanding interest in Roman Britain. His fifth book Greco-Roman Medicine and What It Can Teach Us Today will be published later this year by Pen and Sword Books. You can find him on Twitter @YorkshireGP

Source: Roman Medicine: 6 Ways People Stayed Healthy In Ancient Rome – HistoryExtra

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New Research Reveals Surprising Origins of Egypt’s Hyksos Dynasty

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Popular lore suggests the Hyksos, a mysterious group of foreign invaders, conquered the Nile Delta around 1638 B.C. and remained in power until 1530 B.C. But written records of the dynasty are scarce, and modern archaeologists have found few material signs of the ancient military campaign.

Now, new research lends weight to an alternative theory on the Hyksos’ origins. As Colin Barras reports for Science magazine, chemical analysis of skeletons found at the Hyksos capital of Avaris indicates that people from the Levant—an area encompassing the countries surrounding the eastern Mediterranean—immigrated to Egypt centuries before the takeover. The Hyksos dynasty, then, was likely the result of an immigrant uprising, not a hostile outside invasion.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS One, center on variations in strontium isotopes present in 75 skeletons’ tooth enamel. Strontium, a harmless metal found in water, soil and rocks, enters the body primarily through food. Comparing isotope ratios found in enamel, which forms between ages 3 and 8, with those present in a specific region, can help scientists determine whether an individual grew up there, as levels “vary from place to place,” writes Ariel David for Haaretz.

Around half of the skeletons were buried in the 350 years before the Hyksos’ takeover; the rest were interred during the dynasty’s reign. Per the paper, the researchers found that 24 of the pre-1638 skeletons were foreign-born, pointing toward significant immigration prior to the supposed invasion.

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“This was clearly an international city,” lead author Chris Stantis, an archaeologist at Bournemouth University in England, told Science News Bruce Bower last April, when she and co-author Holger Schutkowski presented the research at a conference.

A seal amulet bearing the name of the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis
A seal amulet bearing the name of the Hyksos pharaoh Apophis (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Archaeological finds further testify to the Hyksos culture’s diversity: Ancient artwork depicts members wearing colorful robes distinct from Egypt’s traditional white clothing, while records indicate that they had names similar to people from southwest Asia, according to Science.

Tombs unearthed at Avaris also offer evidence of “non-Egyptian burial customs,” explains Stantis to Live Science’s Laura Geggel. Males were buried “with bronze weaponry in constructed tombs without scarabs or other protective amulets,” and “[t]he most elite had equids of some sort (potentially donkeys) buried outside the tombs, often in pairs as though ready to pull a chariot.”

The archaeologist adds, “This is both a foreign characteristic of burial style, but also suggestive of someone [with] very high status.”

Chemical analysis revealed that many of the foreign-born people buried at Avaris were women. The researchers posit that local-born rulers married women from western Asia, possibly to cement alliances. Strontium levels found in the teeth of individuals raised outside of Egypt varied widely, suggesting people immigrated to the region from a range of places.

“It is fascinating to see corroborating evidence from a new direction which demonstrates that men from the Levant did not settle at Tell el-Dab’a in large numbers at the start of the Hyksos period—which is what one might expect to see in the wake of a huge military invasion,” Deborah Sweeney, an Egyptologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved in the study, tells Haaretz.

The researchers theorize that members of Avaris’ immigrant community rose to power during the unrest of the Second Intermediary Period. After ruling northern Egypt for more than 100 years, they were deposed by the returning pharaohs. Per Science, historians have previously speculated that when the pharaohs reclaimed the territory, they exiled the Hyksos rulers to southwest Asia—a move that may have inspired the biblical story of Exodus.

Mentions of the Hyksos’ rule are scarce. One of the earliest sources describing the dynasty dates to the third century B.C., when a priest named Manetho penned a comprehensive history of history of Egypt. Manetho’s work was later transcribed in fragments by another historian, Josephus. Written long after the Hyksos’ actual reign, the tome claims that the invaders brought an army “sweeping in from the northeast and conquering the northeastern Nile Delta,” according to the paper.

Manetho’s history of the Hyksos may have acted as propaganda that supported Egypt’s plan to invade the Levant under the expansionist New Kingdom.

“The Hyksos invasion was presented as a shame that had to be prevented from repeating itself by controlling these lands,” Daphna Ben-Tor, former curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, tells Haaretz. “The Hyksos were the devil incarnate, while the Egyptian king was the savior of the world.”

By Theresa Machemer

Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com

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The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

The recent discovery of several Viking ship graves in Norway has lifted interest in Viking history to new heights. While there’s no doubting the fascinating discoveries being made, some truly remarkable Viking artifacts exist in plain sight throughout Scandinavia: runestones.

The region’s tradition of carving inscriptions into raised stones as a memorial began as early as the 4th century, but the vast majority of runestones still standing date from the 9th and 10th centuries, the latter years of the Viking Age. Scholars have attempted to translate many of the runic inscriptions, with varying degrees of success.

Rök, Sweden

The runestone of Rök, Sweden, is one of the most popular attractions on Scandinavia’s burgeoning Viking tourist trail. Yet its origin story continues to mystify.

First-time visitors to the runestone outside Rök in a rural part of East Middle Sweden are often left speechless. The imposing five-ton carved stone has an almost alien-like appearance and is unlike any other archaeological find in the world.

Believed to date back to the early 9th century, the stone was raised and carved by a Viking struggling to cope with the death of his son. He channelled his emotions into carving this sprawling text, which consists of more than 700 runes spread across the stone’s five sides.

While several translations have been made, experts struggle to interpret the results. One recent study even claims part of the inscription tells of the community’s fears about a period of extended cold.

A team led by Per Holmberg, a professor of Swedish language at the University of Gothenburg, said that a series of 6th century volcanic eruptions plunged Sweden into a prolonged cold snap, killing as much as half the population. The new study claims that the runestone’s author could have been spooked by a series of events that occurred between the years 775 and 810. During that time, a solar storm, a very cold summer, and a near-total solar eclipse all took place, any of which could have been mistaken as an indicator of another extreme cold spell on its way.

Jelling, Denmark

The Jelling area of Denmark is synonymous with Viking history. The town’s 11th century stone church was built on the site of Harald Bluetooth’s wooden church from the 900s.

Two giant burial mounds provide the backdrop for these runestones, considered to be some of the most famous historical artifacts in Denmark as they contain the oldest written references to the country’s name.

The Jelling stones make up part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such have become one of Denmark’s most popular sights. The bigger stone was raised by Harald Bluetooth to honour his parents and celebrate his conquest of Denmark. The smaller, older stone is aid to have been raised by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife, Thyra.

Rakkestad, Norway

As with Viking burial ships, runestones are still being discovered to this day across Scandinavia. Very few have been found in Norway, yet in 2018 this remarkable find was made in Rakkestad, only a handful of miles away from the location of the Gjellestad ship.

However, unlike the burial ship and almost all the other runestones in Scandinavia, this one has been found to predate the Viking Age by as much as 400 years. So old is the Proto Norse language of the 35 runes that it took researchers at the University of Oslo to confirm that they were indeed original runes.

Södermanland, Sweden

While Denmark and Norway to have a handful of runestones, the vast majority are located in Sweden. To the west of Swedish capital Stockholm, the Södermanland region alone is home to 450 known runic inscriptions.

Perhaps the most famous is the Stenkvista runestone near Stenkvita church. It is one of several runestones that reference Thor, but this one has a depiction of Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir.

Another famous stone at Skåang is notable for two sets of inscriptions. The first is written with the oldest known runic alphabet and is believed to date to the 6th century. A second inscription was added during the Viking Age.

Elsewhere in the region, a runestone with tales of extensive warfare throughout western Europe stands more than three meters high in the large burial ground at Kungshållet in Kjula.

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I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast for fellow expats, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, help Norwegian companies with their English, and spend my free time touring the country to discover more about the people and places of this unique corner of the world. I write for Forbes with an outsider’s inside perspective on Norway & Scandinavia.

Source: The Stunning Viking Runestones Of Scandinavia

Runes. The Viking world was full of them. In an extract from The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, Waldemar Januszczak explains their importance in the much-misunderstood Viking culture. The complete series is now available on DVD from the ZCZ Films shop: http://www.zczfilms.com/shop/films/th…

 

Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, on display at the Yakutsk's Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia's Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.

(YAKUTSK, Russia) — Russian scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East.

Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact.

“This puppy has all its limbs, pelage – fur, even whiskers. The nose is visible. There are teeth. We can determine due to some data that it is a male,” Nikolai Androsov, director of the Northern World private museum where the remains are stored, said at the presentation at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum which specializes in ancient specimens.

In recent years, Russia’s Far East has provided many riches for scientists studying the remains of ancient animals. As the permafrost melts, affected by climate change, more and more parts of woolly mammoths, canines and other prehistoric animals are being discovered. Often it is mammoth tusk hunters who discover them.

This is a handout photo taken on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, showing a 18,000 years old Puppy found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, on display at the Yakutsk’s Mammoth Museum, Russia. Russian scientists have presented a unique prehistoric canine, believed to be 18,000 years old and found in permafrost in the Russia’s Far East, to the public on Dec. 2, 2019.
Sergei Fyodorov—Yakutsk Mammoth Museum/AP

“Why has Yakutia come through a real spate of such unique findings over the last decade? First, it’s global warming. It really exists, we feel it, and local people feel it strongly. Winter comes later, spring comes earlier,” Sergei Fyodorov, scientist with the North Eastern Federal University, told The Associated Press.

By DARIA LITVINOVA and ROMAN KUTUKOV / AP

Source: Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000-Year-Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost

Russian Scientists Show Off 18,000 Year Old Prehistoric Puppy Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost scientists on Monday showed off a prehistoric puppy, believed to be 18,000 years old, found in permafrost in the country’s Far East. Discovered last year in a lump of frozen mud near the city of Yakutsk, the puppy is unusually well-preserved, with its hair, teeth, whiskers and eyelashes still intact. Follow us : https://web.facebook.com/News-Of-The-…

 

This Ancient Greek’s Breastbone Shows He Was Executed With Terrifying Precision

Sternum of a Hellenistic period man showing stab wound.

On the island of Thasos, which lies close to the north shore of the Aegean Sea, archaeologists recovered dozens of burials dating to the Greek Hellenistic period, or 4th to 1st centuries BC. One particular older male caught their attention because he was likely executed with a precise wound to his breastbone.

Since at least the 7th century BC, the island of Thasos was an important part of the Greek world, as recorded by ancient authors Herodotus and Thucydides and as revealed through numerous excavations over the past several decades by archaeologists affiliated with the Hellenic Antiquities Authority. Residents of ancient Thasos built settlements and strongholds on the island and the nearby mainland, and through their control of regional sea routes, they became rich and powerful.

Excavation at an ancient cemetery on Thasos revealed clusters of Hellenistic and Roman period family graves that contained the skeletons of males and females of all ages. One specific skeleton, however, intrigued archaeologist Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University so much that he studied it in painstaking detail; his results are forthcoming in Access Archaeology.

Agelarakis discovered that the skeleton was male and that, based on the degenerative wear on his joints and teeth, he was likely more than 50 years old when he died. Further, his robust skeleton suggested that he had been involved in physically demanding tasks and activities. None of this was surprising to Agelarakis, as ancient Greek men were known to have engaged in much physical labor over their lifetimes. Once the bones were cleaned in the laboratories of the Archaeological Museum of Thasos Island, however, Agelarakis noticed something odd: a hole in the lower part of the man’s sternum or breastbone.

The human body can have numerous variants, often extraneous holes or bones whose presence (or absence) is passed down in families. These variations are selectively neutral, so they don’t get eliminated from the human species, but they are useful for bioarchaeologists interested in tracking genetic relationships without doing destructive analysis like DNA work. One of these common variants is a hole in the lower part of the breastbone, called the sternal foramen, which occurs in roughly 5% of the population.

“It became immediately apparent,” Agelarakis notes, “that this case did not pertain to a developmental anomaly of sternal foramen, but to a multilevel mechanically caused orifice, one that had been sustained by a through-and-through gladiolar [lower breastbone] injury.” A seven-sided entry wound could be seen, clearly suggesting a type of penetrating trauma, and there was no evidence of healing. The man had been stabbed.

To shed some light on the mechanics of the injury, I asked Patrick Randolph-Quinney, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Central Lancashire, to weigh in. “In my considered opinion, Agelarakis has a case,” he says. “Penetrating peri-mortem trauma is consistent with some of the skeletal defects displayed.” While he is not fully convinced of the seven-sided entry wound, Randolph-Quinney notes that the exit wound, or the back side of the sternum, is of particular interest. This exit wound has sharp bone edges, which rules out both post-mortem damage and a sternal foramen. Flat bones like the sternum react differently to trauma compared to bones like the skull and long bones of the arms and legs. “In cases of arrow or crossbow wounds,” Randolph-Quinney says, “it’s my experience that they ‘punch’ their way through flat bone, leaving sharp margins on both entrance and exit surfaces, similar to the photos in Agelarakis’ article. I think he’s right about the injury — but maybe for the wrong reasons.”

Not content to simply diagnose this ancient Thasian man with a stab wound, Agelarakis set out to figure out what kind of weapon made the odd, seven-sided mark on the bone. To do this, he and his colleagues extrapolated the shape of the weapon from the injury, created a 3D model reconstruction in wax, and then generated mold from that in order to cast the weapon in bronze. Once this process was completed, Agelarakis was able to suggest that the weapon was a styrax, or the spike at the lower end of a spear-shaft. He and his colleagues then used their reconstructed weapon on a ballistic model of a human in order to approximate force and direction of the fatal blow.

Ballistic model

Ballistic model created to test the force and direction of a styrax injury.

A. Agelarakis / Adelphi University

Given the identification of the weapon, Agelarakis hypothesizes that this was a close-encounter sharp force injury, in which the man was immobilized, perhaps with his hands tied behind his back, “in order to receive a contact thrusting of an accurately anatomically calculated, precisely positioned, and well-delivered striking into the inferior mediastinum region of the thorax.” Essentially, the deadly aim of the person wielding the spear caused a fatal wound to the Thasian man’s chest, which put him into cardiac arrest as he bled out. Agelarakis suggests that this was almost certainly “a prepared execution event.”

This older Thacian man was buried in an individual grave among clusters of family graves, without any indication that he was treated differently than others in death. Because of his simple burial, Agelarakis thinks that he was not condemned to capital punishment because he was a traitor or conspirator. Rather, “it may be postulated that his untimely and violent death could have been the result of a political-military turmoil or reprisals, possibly during forceful regime changes” that occurred during the Hellenistic era. Although this man was stabbed to death, he was likely of high standing and, as Agelarakis concludes, “would have been recognized as a worthy opponent.”

For more news about ancient skeletons, follow Kristina Killgrove on Twitter (@DrKillgrove), Instagram (Powered by Osteons), or Facebook (Powered by Osteons).

As a bioarchaeologist, I routinely pore over the skeletons of ancient populations so that I can learn about their health, diet, and lifestyles.

Source: This Ancient Greek’s Breastbone Shows He Was Executed With Terrifying Precision

Archaeologists Make ‘Very Special’ Viking Era Discovery in Norway

Almost one thousand years after the end of the Viking Age, Norwegian archaeologists have made a sensational find near Halden in the south-east of Norway. The burial mound and adjacent field harbour several longhouses and at least one ship burial. Digital data visualizations reveal the well-defined 20-meter-long ship-shaped structure, with indications that the lower part is well preserved. Incredibly, the ship lies just below the topsoil, with just 50cm separating it from the fresh air.

Source: Archaeologists Make ‘Very Special’ Viking Era Discovery in Norway

Archeologist Spends Over 35 Years Building Enormous Scale Model of Ancient Rome – Jessica Stewart

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Tucked in the residential Roman neighborhood of EUR, a sprawling 1:250 scale model displays the glory of ancient Rome. Known as the Plastico di Roma Imperiale, the plaster model was commissioned by Mussolini in 1933 and depicts Rome in the 4th century AD at the time of Constantine I. It now sits in the Museum of Roman Civilization, a museum opened in the 1930s to demonstrate the history of ancient Rome.The plaster model is a masterpiece created by archaeologist Italo Gismondi, who worked on the piece throughout his life…….

 

Read more: https://mymodernmet.com/scale-model-ancient-rome/

John Wayne Gacy & The Birth of The Murderabilia Industry – Tom G. Wolf

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Serial killers exert a peculiar hold over many among the general public. Their crimes are appalling, yet fascinating; their motives are frequently incomprehensible, sometimes even to the killers themselves. Yet people find themselves drawn back again and again to these seemingly complex characters and the gruesome nature of their crimes. Writing for Psychology Today, Professor Scott Bonn noted that: “In many ways, serial killers are for adults what monster movies are for children—that is, scary fun! However, the pleasure an adult receives from watching serial killers can be difficult to admit, and may even trigger feelings of guilt…..

Read more: https://wearethemutants.com/2018/09/10/john-wayne-gacy-and-the-birth-of-the-murderabilia-industry/

 

 

 

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See How Many Times Your School District Has Been Investigated for Civil Rights Violations – Beth Skwarecki

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If you believe your school district or college is discriminating against students on the basis of sex, race, or disability, you’re entitled to file a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Sexual harassment and assault are also grounds for complaints. The office is supposed to investigate fully and, if necessary, recommend corrective action to right any wrongs.

But ProPublica reports that the Department of Education is now dismissing far more cases without taking action under Betsy DeVos than it did under her predecessors. To go along with their report, they have published a tool that lets you look up your school district or college to see how many investigations have been opened in the last few years, and how they were resolved.

The data doesn’t break out individual schools, so New York City’s entire school district shows up as one entry with hundreds of cases. But if you look up a smaller district, or a college, the data becomes more meaningful—two cases at in one Pennsylvania district I checked. Six at the University of Pittsburgh, but 15 at that same university’s medical school, which is listed separately.

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For the full details on what the cases are about, you’ll have to check local news or other sources; ProPublica only provides dates and some very basic information on the type of complaint and the nature of the resolution. But it’s worth checking to see what’s happening at your district that you might not have known about.

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Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

To the delight of modern tourists, Maya kings sought to outdo each other with more and more impressive temples, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal) is an outstanding example.

via Uxmal: A Window Into The Maya — GALLIVANCE

 

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