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In An Ancient Greek Cemetery, Archaeologists Have Unearthed A Mass Grave Containing Eighty Skeletons That Were Bound Together By Iron Chains.

Archaeologists have uncovered mysterious remains at the Falyron Delta necropolis in Athens. At least 80 skeletons were found buried in a mass grave in an ancient Greek cemetery, with their wrists clamped by iron shackles. Experts believe they were victims of a mass execution, but the identities of these individuals, how they came to be there, and why they were buried with a measure of respect, remain a mystery.

Skeletal remains, with iron shackles on their wrists, are laid in a row at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens. Credit: Reuters

During the construction of a national opera house and library between downtown Athens and the port of Piraeus, a worker discovered shackled skeletal remains at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery. These remains were found earlier this year in a part of the cemetery that has been dubbed the Falyron Delta necropolis. Despite restrictions on entrance, archaeologists carefully led a tour of the site to Reuters. The tour showcased the skeletons, some of which were arranged in a long and neat row in the sandy ground. Others were piled on top of each other, with their arms and legs twisted and jaws hanging open.

According to Dr. Stella Chryssoulaki, the head of excavations, the executed individuals were buried with respect despite all being killed in the same manner. It appears that most of them were young and in good health before their execution with their hands tied together by handcuffs. The cause of death is still unknown but experts plan to conduct DNA testing and research by anthropologists to uncover the truth. The violent nature of the event is apparent from the fact that most of the individuals had their arms bound above their heads with their wrists tied together.

But the orderly way they have been buried suggests these were more than slaves or common criminals.


The cemetery dates from between the 8th and 5th century BC.

“It is a period of great unrest for Athenian society, a period where aristocrats, nobles, are battling with each other for power,” said Chryssoulaki.

Shackled skeletal remains are piled on top of each other at the ancient Falyron Delta cemetery in Athens. Credit: Reuters

The remains belonged to men who had been brutally executed. Credit: Reuters One of the strongest theories is that they were supporters of Cylon, an Athenian noble and Olympic champion who staged an attempted coup in Athens in 632 BC with the help of his father-in-law, the tyrant of Megara.

The coup failed and Cylon hid in a temple of the Acropolis. He managed to escape, but the people who backed him were killed.

“Perhaps with the DNA tests that we will do on these skeletons we may confirm or not this hypothesis that these deceased, these young people could be … part of a coup … an attempt by a noble to take power by force,” said Chryssoulaki.

More than 1,500 bodies lie in the whole cemetery, some infants laid to rest in ceramic pots, other adults burned on funeral pyres or buried in stone coffins. One casket is made from a wooden boat. The skull of a child is seen inside a clay jar, a common practice for the burial of babies and children in ancient Greece. Credit: Reuters Unlike Athens’ renowned ancient Kerameikos cemetery, the last resting place of many prominent ancient Greeks, these appear to be the inhabitants of regular neighborhoods.

The dig is within a 170,000 sq m landscaped park, shadowed by the vast new modern library and opera house buildings being built by the Stavros Niarchos philanthropic foundation.

High-rise apartments dot the skyline to the north while a noisy motorway snakes by the site’s east side.

Chryssoulaki wants to see a museum built on the spot, as a monument to the daily lives of Athenians from another era.

“A cemetery is a first and last photograph in antiquity of those people that pass from life to death,” she said.