Lecture by Dr Maria Liston (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Waterloo), “Murder in the Agora: Violent Death and Illicit Burial in Ancient Athens”
Violent crime and homicides are not a problem limited to the modern world alone, and the ancient city of Athens experienced similar events throughout antiquity. A recent study of all the human skeletons found in wells excavated by the American Excavations in the Athenian Agora has found that many of these individuals died violently. Some of the dead, including women and children, appear to be associated with the sack of Athens by the Herulians, a Gothic tribe who invaded Greece in AD 267. Other skeletons, found in wells ranging in date from the Neolithic to late antiquity, appear to be victims of individual attacks. These skeletons exhibit multiple indications of trauma, and appear to be murder victims hidden in the depths of wells, presumably conveniently located near the scene of the crime. This lecture examines the evidence for these ancient “cold case” crimes in Ancient Athens.