Ancient Greek Cold Case? Archeologists Need A High-Tech Solution To Solve 2,500-Year-Old Mass Murder

A failed revolution from over 2,500 years ago could be behind one of the largest Ancient Greek burial excavations ever uncovered. Located just south of Athens, at a site called Phaleron, experts believe that what was uncovered were the remains from the failed revolt, led by Cylon.

Before the birth of democracy, Cylon, the “first recorded Olympic champion,” wanted to make himself the ruler of Athens, gathered supporters and staged a revolution. Although Cylon did escape, it appears that his followers did not. What happened to his captured men is most likely the skeletal remains at Phaleron.

The remains that were discovered could give archeologists important clues to the lives of the Ancient Greeks, but only after a specially trained group of archeologists work their magic to uncover these ancient secrets.

Fans of shows like CSI enjoy watching the investigative process, using scientific methods of determining the cause of death and other personal information about the victim. On the CBS show, the information is gathered and determined within the hour-long drama. Yet, the bioarchaelogical scientists studying the Phaleron site will need around five years to gather the forensic information to then determine what the data reveals.

The laboratory director and geoarchaelogist at the American School in Athens, Greece, Panagiotis Karkanas, says that shows like CSI demonstrate some of the methods he and his colleagues use to determine the cause of death from the remains they find.

“We are going to use, roughly speaking, the methods made famous by television series on forensics crime science.”

According to, bioarchaeological scientists are used to examining skeletons and determining how the humans lived and how they met their demise. They do this by “DNA profiling” and other types of forensic research.


Karkanas and his fellow researchers are going to perform gene, radiographic, and isotopic analysis on the skeletons as well as inside of each of the skulls.

What they are looking for is more detailed information on the men and how they existed. They want to determine where they were from, their age, and how healthy and wealthy they were. In addition, they want to determine if any of the men are related.


One-third of the over 1,500 skeletons are of women and children, whose remains are in ceramic chars. Many of the other skeletons look as if they were physically beaten before their death or experienced other forms of torture. Some appeared to have had their hands bound in shackles.

There are theories that perhaps they were encouraged to give up the rebellion, and promised that they would be protected, but instead, were severely beaten and killed. This forensic study will hopefully determine if these men are part of the Cylon rebellion.

Much of the information that we do know about the ancients today was recorded by ancient historians Herodotus or Thucydides, yet the forensic results of this discovery could shed more light on the day-to-day lives of people in Ancient Greece.

Have you been following the story of the ancient remains at Phaleron?

[Featured Image by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]