Why an Outlaw Was Stabbed to Death and Then Buried Face-Down in Medieval Sicily

Live Science | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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In medieval Sicily, a man was stabbed multiple times in the back, buried in a really weird way and ostensibly lost to history.

Now, hundreds of years later, archaeologists have excavated evidence of this ancient crime in the Piazza Armerina, Sicily. The researchers found the man's skeleton lying face-down in a shallow pit, empty of any funerary objects typical of ancient burials. The body was buried in a position that was unusual for that time period, they reported last month in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

Report - Evidence - Cuts - Individual - Sternum

According to the report, there was evidence of six cuts on the individual's sternum (breastbone) that were indicative of stab wounds likely inflicted by a knife or dagger. On the right side of his sternum, the researchers found a chop mark where a piece of the bone had been removed, likely by a twisting motion from the weapon.

There was no evidence of other injuries on the man's vertebrae or ribs that would suggest that the man was involved in some kind of "uncontrolled" fight, said lead author Roberto Miccichè, an archaeologist at the University of Palermo in Italy.

Goal - Man - Killer - Victim - Way

The goal of the man's killer, it seems, was to attack the victim in a "very effective and rapid way," Miccichè said; in addition, the assailant likely knew human anatomy "very well." In fact, the cuts were so clean and smooth, that the man may have been immobilized, perhaps with binding, Miccichè said. The man's feet were also squished together in the burial space, which further supports the idea that his feet were bound together.

Using CT scans, the researchers were able to determine the the angle and size of the man's stab wounds, information that the investigators then used to create a 3D reconstruction of where the sharp object dug into the sternum and chest cage.

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