Headhunters' Trophy Skulls Uncovered From Ancient London
Skull discoveries point to hard knocks, and untidy endings, for ancient Roman gladiators and criminals.
Beheadings and brutality aplenty marked the deaths of the Roman Empire's gladiators, criminals, and war victims, suggest forensic archaeologists looking at skulls from ancient London.
The thriving capital of a Roman province by A.D. 100, Londinium (now London) held Roman legions, restive Britons, and an amphitheater for gladiatorial games. Along one of London's "lost rivers," the Walbrook stream, the city also held tanneries and burial pits. (See video: "When Rome Ruled: Gladiator Training Camp.")
In a new Journal of Archaeological Science report by Rebecca Redfern of the Museum of London and Heather Bonney of London's Natural History Museum, analysis of 39 skulls uncovered from those pits—many bearing marks of decapitation and other brutality—tell a gory tale