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The 5 Most Disturbing Archaeological Discoveries

 Ancient Chemical Warfare

There was nothing pleasant about ancient warfare. Having said this, a group of 20 or so Roman soldiers may have met a particularly gruesome end almost 2,000 years ago.


Credit: Yale University Art Gallery, Dura-Europos Collection

The Roman-held Syrian city of Dura was under siege from Persian soldiers, who were attempting to dig tunnels under the city walls. The Romans could see this occurring, and thus attempted to intercept them with their own tunnels. This, however, proved to be a fatal mistake. The Persian soldiers could hear the Romans coming, and had time to lay a trap; a cloud of noxious petrochemical smoke that would have turned their enemies’ lungs to acid. Grisly.

The tunnels were excavated back in the 20’s and 30’s – and have been since then been reburied. The presence of sulphur and bitumen crystals could have created a choking gas that would have been both terrifying and deadly.

 The First Leper


Hansen’s disease, commonly referred to as Leprosy actually has low infectivity, but still has long carried a horrible stigma. The terrible sores that riddle the patients body have caused sufferers of Leprosy to be snubbed and isolated.

An archaeological find discovered in India, which is actually the oldest evidence of Leprosy, suggests that this stigma goes back for thousands of years. Hindu tradition involves cremation of the dead, so the very fact that this 4,000 year old skeleton has survived until today is clear indication that this unfortunate soul was an outcast. The skeleton was discovered in a stone enclosure filled with ash from burnt cow excrement – cow dung was then considered to be both sacred, and purifying.

Neanderthal Cannibals


In 2010, researchers found a chilling discovery of a family of Neanderthals in a cave in Spain. But what makes this discovery so disturbing is that the bones showed signs of cannibalism!

The 43,000 year old skeletons showed signs that the larger bones had been broken open, this was most likely to reveal the marrow – which is very nutritious.

It should be noted that Neanderthals are not early humans – only 99.5% genetically identical to humans!

Targeted Sacrifice

Human sacrifices occurred all over the world. One discovery, back in 2008 in Syria, was particularly unusual. A strange arrangement of both human and animal bones was discovered – with three human skeletons laying side by side – headless. Overdeveloped attachment sites at ligaments and strange skeletal injuries caused scientists to believe that one of the remains was that of an acrobat.


The headless bodies were left there and the building that they were contained in was filled with dirt – the animals and the entertainers were sacrifices, perhaps after some kind of natural disaster.

Being a celebrity in ancient Syria may of have had some unexpected problems…

Know any other grisly ancient stories? Let us know in the comments below!



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