• latw-210-5
    Skeleton of soldier found near fortification, during excavation (No. 210). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • latw-210-10
    Skull of a skeleton found in destruction debris at sector MMS. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)
  • latw-210-20
    Arm of skeleton found in destruction debris at sector MMS, still holding a small stone (slingstone?) in his hand; with slingstones from a Lydian house under the theater. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Skull and right forearm from the skeleton of a young man

Date
Ca. mid-sixth century BC, Lydian
Museum
Inventory No.
Sardis CATNUM
Org09.001
Material
Bone
Object Type
Miscellaneous
Site
Sardis
Sector
MMS
Trench
MMS-III 88.A
Locus
MMS-III 88.A Locus 6
Description
Skull and right arm from the skeleton of a young man, probably a soldier who died in the Persian sack of Sardis. The skeleton was complete except for part of the pelvis; only selected parts are displayed here. It belonged to a young man, estimated to be 22-26 years old at death, in good physical condition. His left arm was more developed by holding a heavy weight, probably a shield, while the right arm displayed the effects of repetitive forward motion, such as wielding a sword or spear. His neck vertebrae (preserved with the skull) were compressed by wearing a heavy object - a helmet - on his head, perhaps the very helmet found nearby, No. 211. He had suffered two facial wounds ca. three to four years before death, and his left arm was broken around the time of death, probably while defending himself from a blow from above; he had also been wounded in the back and in the front chest. In his right hand, he still clutched a small stone, perhaps a slingstone, which is still preserved in his clenched fist. When found, the bones were so friable that they had to be consolidated with resins and gauze; the fabric now adhering to the arm was applied during excavation to hold the bones together.
Comments
One of two skeletons of soldiers found in a “recess” in the fortification, the body was discarded in a layer of bricky debris when the fortification was deliberately destroyed and Sardis de-fortified. This must have happened shortly after the soldier had died, since the bones were still largely articulated and he still clutched a rock in his hand. The destruction is dated to the mid-sixth century by pottery found in houses destroyed at the same time, and is almost certainly the capture and destruction of Sardis by Cyrus of Persia, ca. 547 BC (see Cahill, “The Persian Sack of Sardis”).

A tiny silver coin, No. 31, was found near the skull and was perhaps carried in the soldier’s mouth when he died. The helmet No. 211 was found a few meters away, and might have belonged to this individual.

Discussed
Greenewalt, “Introduction”; Cahill, “Persian Sack of Sardis”
Bibliography
Greenewalt 1992, 257-261; Greenewalt, Ratté, and Rautman 1993, 20-21.
Author
NDC