Remains of 80 Men Discovered Shackled Together at the Wrists in a Mass Grave Near Athens

By | May 1, 2017

The end of the 7th century B.C. was a tumultuous time in Athenian history. Once ruled by a king, the powerful region of Attica, home to Athens, had come to be taken over by aristocrats who stayed in power through landownership and lifetime appointments. But as the century drew to a close, the political climate was changing, it was primed for a new type of government—that of a single ruler, or tyrant. A haunting gravesite found on the outskirts of Athens is a testament to this contentious moment in history.

Excavators at the Phaleron Delta necropolis have unearthed the remains of 80 men, shackled together at their wrists, burried in a mass grave. Recent osteological studies have determined that most of the men were between 20 and 30 years old, although four were much younger, and that all 80 had been killed with a fatal blow to the head. The discovery of two small vases buried alongside them has allowed archaeologists to date the grave to the mid-to-late 7th century B.C., suggesting that the men were executed in the course of gaining political primacy. “For the first time,” project director Stella Chrysoulaki says, “we can illustrate historical events that took place during the struggle between aristocrats in the seventh century and led, through a long process, to the establishment of a democratic regime in the city of Athens.”