Conducting an isotope analysis of ancient teeth, researchers from the University of Georgia have revealed some Greek military secrets, debunking a 2,500-year-old claim, which includes the fact that soldier diversity may have been far better than the likes of Herodotus let on.
In an INVERSE article, the study's first author and doctoral candidate in anthropology, Katherine Reinberger from the University of Georgia said that their finding allows researchers to shift the study of this ancient history from society at large to individual humans in a manner that they couldn't do so, minus the chemical assessment.
The said piece described the background specifying that, between 480 BCE and 409 BCE, the Greek city of Himera went through two great battles by conquering Carthaginian armies.
Famously, the initial 480 BCE attack was fending off with the non-local Greek allies' help, while the second fight was mostly battled by Greek locals and led to the fall of the city.
This, at least, is how Herodotus, as well as other historians of the time, recalled the fight for antiquity. However, Reinberger and colleagues wanted to find out how it actually went down.
Himera Soldier's Skeletal Remains
To address what they wanted to figure out, the team assessed the Himera soldier's skeletal remains. However, unlike other Greek fights on the mainland, explained Reinberger, these two battles were of specific scientific interest due to their mass soldier graves.
She also said it is not very typical to discover mass graves from Greek battles. Therefore, this was a unique opportunity to employ isotopic analysis as direct evidence for lived experiences of soldiers like where they originated.
In addition, she added, much of what has been known about the ancient Greek military is grounded on armies and fights from mainland Greece.
Therefore, not only these battles and the mass graves from them offer information about Greek soldiers in general, and they expand what's known about practices in the military as well, specifically on Sicily.
Elements Found in Greek Soldiers' Teeth
Examining the different elements found in the Greek soldiers' teeth will help researchers not just better understand the battle's historical accounts but could help them understand the sociopolitical structure as well, between Greek nationals and foreign allies.
This research entitled "Isotopic evidence for geographic heterogeneity in Ancient Greek military forces," published in the PLOS ONE journal, suggests that olden communities were more diverse compared to what was previously thought, Reinberger explained.
The foreign allies' recruitment may have offered pathways to citizenship that is not frequently discussed in the history of Greece.
Historical Dental Records Examined
For the researchers to piece together the collected ancient teeth, a total of 62, from the two massive graves, they retrieved local, modern-day dental records from the said location.
Eventually, they were able to complete an isotope assessment on the teeth to identify if their different Strontium levels, which build up in the bones through the plants and soil consumed, and oxygen, building up through the water drunk, to compare to the local populace.
As a result, the team was able to verify that the battle in 480 BCE comprised more non-local soldiers compared to the 409 BCE battle as described in a similar Courthouse News Service report.
However, they have discovered too, that historical records may have fabricated the numbers slightly in terms of the number of foreign soldiers from outside the Greek territories who took part in the 480 BCE battle.
Related information about ancient Greek discoveries is shown on the American Eye's YouTube video below:
Check out more news and information on Human Evolution on Science Times.