Fighting to the Death: Weapon Injuries in a Mass Grave (16th-17th century) from Bucharest, Romania

Archaeological excavations carried out in 1972 and 2010–2011 in the University Square, Bucharest, Romania, brought to light 688 graves belonging to the Saint Sava Church Cemetery, dating between the middle of the 16th century and middle of the 19th century. At 35 metres from the western boundary of the cemetery, a mass grave containing three adult male skeletons was unearthed. The unusual position of the skeletons and the high incidence of traumatic injuries on the bones posed several questions concerning the historical and archaeological context of this grave. Osteological analysis of the skeletons revealed that all three individuals exhibited a series of occupational stress markers, indicating similar activities and associated with moderate physical activity during life. A total number of 24 perimortem lesions (caused mainly by sabres but also by blunt objects and projectiles) were recorded on the skeletal remains. The high percentage of cranial injuries may indicate that the head was the main target, demonstrating the intention to incapacitate the victims quickly and being different from those connected to executions in the period. Eight of these lesions were produced by sharp objects similar to sabres used by professional soldiers during the 16th–17th century in southeastern Europe.

Authors:M. Constantinescu, E. Gavrilă, S. Greer, A. Soficaru, D. Ungureanu
Publication:International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, DOI: 10.1002/oa.2450
Published: 2015
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