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Head injuries of Gladiators
Hi all,

I was just browsing the Ancient Combat Sports section and didn't see mentioned anywhere the Kanz and Grossschmidt article for Forensic Science International:

Head Injuries of Roman Gladiators

Here's a blurb from the Intro:

'Human skulls from a gladiator cemetery in ancient
Ephesus (Turkey) provide the opportunity to assess the lethal
aspects of ancient gladiator fights. It is the first mass grave of
its kind to have undergone thorough osteological and forensic
analysis. Beside the opportunity for reassessing written
theories involving weaponry and techniques of fighting, the
examination of the gladiator bones gives an excellent
opportunity to check the methods for identification of antemortem,
perimortem, or postmortem bone lesions'.

It can be heavy on the science but that's to be expected, the most interesting parts are the accounts of gladiator weaponry, and the results (along with good colour photographs) of studying the 68 gladiator skeletons and their injuries. Here's two interesting quotes:

'Although there was a low expectation of deadly cranial
wounds because of the use of helmets, 10 perimortem
wounds affecting the same number of individuals could
be detected. A possible explanation is provided by the
reported deathblow technique used by an arena servant
dressed up as the death god ‘‘Dis Pater’’ carrying an hammer'.

'..the perimortem trauma impact positions seem to be
consistent with the above mentioned deathblow administration,
where the executor wishes to avoid eye-to-eye contact'.

So, has anybody here read it? And if not, what are the rules regarding sharing articles on the site?

Arma virumque cano
No I haven't read it but I would be interested in reading it.
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
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Byron Angel
I read something about that a year or so ago on this forum. It was one of the ways a mortally wounded gladiator was "put out of his misery", by a head blow with a heavy sledge hammer. I guess that would be relatively painless, but probably pretty messy.
M. Demetrius Abicio
(David Wills)

Saepe veritas est dura.
Ok, so I tried to add it as an attachment but it just kept saying pdf not found - if anybody wants it just pm me with an email address and I'll send it on over.

And yes caiusbeerquitius, there is one skull showing puncture marks from a trident, alongside those caused by swords and in quite a few cases their own helmets caving in under blunt force trauma.
Arma virumque cano
IIRC there is one which has damage from a trident of the type from London... or am I mixing this up with the curious three- or four - pointed sword?.... hmmmm....
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.


[Image: BannerAER-1-1.jpg]
I have the article by the Austrians Fabain Kanz and Karl Grossschmidt and I have to admit that it was not an easy read because it contained many medical terms.

Usually most gladiators wear helmets (except the retiarius) and the both scholars assume that those injuries at the skulls might have happened at a final stage of combat were both opponents might have lost most of their defensive weapons including helmets. Although most depictions even when in final stage of fight show gladiators with helmets on.

@caiusbeerquitius: The four pronged weapon left its marks on a femur, not on a skull. But one of the skulls shows marks presumably of a trident.
The unfortunate loser with the trident-punctured skull may have been the retiarius killed with his own trident, possibly as a gesture of contempt. The Ephesian combate seem to have been brutal even by Roman standards.

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