Gladiators: Back From The Dead

Gladiators: Back From The DeadThe savagery of gladiatorial battles was depicted as Channel 4 investigated the discovery of 80 skeletons at a York archaeological dig.

As reported in The Press, the 80 skeletons, the majority of large, powerfully-built men dating from Roman times, were found at a dig in Driffield Terrace, Holgate.

TV documentary – Gladiators: Back From The Dead – examined the theory that the men were gladiators, based on evidence which included the fact some had injuries which may have been inflicted fighting at an amphitheatre, one of the most telling being a bite mark from a large carnivore such as a tiger or bear.

The men were also all buried with some respect and their final resting places included grave goods as well as large joints of meat – making it less likely they were executed criminals.

But the theory they were gladiators is still open to dispute. As yet there has been no evidence of an amphitheatre found in York and there is nothing conclusive about the men’s injuries.

They could have been inflicted in battle and there were no injuries from weapons like the three-pointed trident which were specifically used by certain types of gladiator.

Because of this York Archaeological Trust has set up a website offering the public the chance to have their say. Opinions can be left at at headlessromans.co.uk.

John Walker, York Archaeological Trust’s chief executive, said: “This is a fascinating discovery that gives a real insight into the world of interpreting archaeology."

“With archaeology, you are very rarely dealing in the definite. There are almost always elements of ‘possibly’ and ‘probably’ and the archaeologist’s job is to weigh up the evidence and make an informed judgment on the most likely explanation.”

Watch the full documentary now

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Ratings: 6.82/10 from 11 users.

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Comments and User Reviews

  • Waldo

    A brutal display of the glatatorial sports, not for the squeamish. Some of the conclusion they reach by studying these bones seem a bit of a reach, but many seem dead on. This is why I say there is no such thing as the good ole days. We clearly have a long way to go before we can say we are truly civilized, but we have also come a long way since such brutal indifferent public displays. One must remember that only a hundred years or so ago public hangings for those deemed guilty of crimes such as cattle rustling was common. At least now people try and give the appearance of valueing human life. Of course with such crimes as what is taking place in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the retaliations for these crimes such as the internet beheadings of late it is only a superficial respect for life that we have on the whole. One has merely to scratch at the ficade to reveal our barbarism. Man can be such a wicked creature, and yet at times very gentle and loving. The question remains however, which of these attributes will win out in the end?

  • Mad at the world

    Romans liked to call anybody who was not Roman "barbarians" but they were actually LESS barbaric than the Romans. Romans were one of the bloodiest ancient cultures and its scary how much the United States has in common.

  • Waldo

    @ Mad at the world

    It is scary to see how much all countries have in common with them. Man by nature is bloody and barbaric, the US just gets caught because everyone is looking at us. In the past it was other countries that did horrible things, and in the future they will again. The US has its issues, definitely. From my above post you can see that I am aware of what we are doing and disaprove of it greatly. But to single us out, which is everyones favorite past time lately is really painting a false picture of the world. Look at what Germany did in WW2, look at what Russia did in the years of Stalin, look at what... you get the picture. I am not defending our behavior trust me, it is wrong and can not be justified by pointing out what others did. But if we see this as an American problem or a German problem, it will never change I fear. Peace.

  • ProudinUS

    The h$ll with formalities:

    Hey "mad at the world"....f$ck you!.......What did this doc. have to do with US. PUNK!

  • vivian

    Could you guys imagine reflecting on human history without the maelstrom of violence? BORING!!!!

  • myke

    forced entertainment at the cost of men lives for some rich romans trying to get poltics in their coin purse but i have yet to watch film just did a bit of research on the arenas and i just wanted to leave a comment another will follow after this one one with truth and merit

  • myke

    just watched it was well made and 1 of the best docu ive seen made on the gladiators

  • Waldo

    @ vivian

    While I applaud your apparent distaste for violence, to reflect on human history while ignoring it is to ignore the 800 pound gorilla in the room, so to speak. Violence has shaped history whether we like it or not, and if we ignore it then what will ever change? One of the larger points of the study of history is to ensure it is not repeated. Let us take our lessons from reality while we strive for peace and goodwill toward all men. Besides, how insulting would it be to the victims of that violence to act as if it never happened? Delicate sensibilities have no place in the study of mans history.

  • Achems Razor

    @Mad at the world:

    You should enter your comments on this doc as per, your handle, and not directing all the blame on USA for any and all atrocities. In case you do not know there are lot of other countries that ain't angels!

    And by the way, when you say USA did you have someone in mind specifically? or was this directed at all civilians? Hmmm?

  • Buddha

    Now,we have virtual violence in movies to satisfy our lust for blood. And of course, video games. Then we have hockey, football and UFC where they usually get to walk away because of some changes in prevailing boundaries in most of the world. But what's mostly changed is our technology. We are still mostly unloved,unwanted,insignificant and unlikely to survive long enough to evolve into anything else.

  • Buddha

    Nothing's changed but our technology. Now we have virtual gore and violence in movies and video games. But we still sacrifice our children for real in war.

  • Nikh

    @Mad at the world
    That is so true. Makes me glad I am neither ancient Roman or American.

  • http://youtube.com/YourBrainOnReligion capricious

    ProudinUS is the kind of brainless zombie that makes me embaressed to be an American anymore. Open your freaking eyes and understand why people hate us. SPOILER: It's not because of "our freedoms" either, nitwit.

  • http://www.thebibleandthenews.com beauregard

    Gladiators are a fact of history. But this evidence is not compelling me to believe that these remains are that of gladiators. For instance, bone length discrepancies could have been caused by certain kinds of repetitive work; gladiator training might have had nothing to do with it. And note that the narrator says 18 mm. instead of 1.8 cm. when speaking of arm length discrepancy, which makes it sound like more of a discrepancy than it actually is. There might be more sensationalism (well done) than archaeological proof here.

  • Marge

    Being an avid reader of Roman history and culture, it is difficult for me to meld the barbaric and the civilized sides of Rome. I admire the noble Romans and am grateful for giving us who live in the Western world the idea of the Republic, but I cringe at the addiction the Romans had for the "Games."

    I do know that gladiators were often Roman soldiers who had misbehaved -- they certainly weren't all slaves.

  • StephenM

    the roman games were also popular because they handed out food to the poor, not just the blood.

  • Jack1952

    We can't really know that the other cultures of that time were no crueler than the Romans. The Romans were just the most powerful. As such, everything they did was scrutinized to a greater degree. The United States is now the most powerful nation in the world. Most of us fear what intimidates us. The power of the U.S. is scary. You can't help but notice the elephant in the room.

  • Jack1952

    Sorry. I hadn't read this post yet when I made my comment about the elephant in the room

  • http://www.facebook.com/L0LAW0NKA Lola San

    Oh I loved that movie. I also love the fact that women were gladiatrix. Ahh

  • John Cury

    Brutal? Yes, but just another sport of the time. How do we know in 2000 years the people of the time will not look back and laugh at most of our current sports? When talking about being civilized, you have to look at the times, the times back then were brutal. You could have been working on your farm and some army could have come and killed you and your family. Really good books on the Roman empire and civilization are
    ANCIENT ROME BY ROBERT F. PENNELL and THE OLD ROMAN WORLD BY JOHN LORD, also good books werth checking out are
    THE STORY OF ROME BY ARTHUR GILMAN, THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE CAESARS By C. Suetonius Tranquillus

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001324155038 Chris Clyne

    Excellent doc and great quality. The video loops tho so there is no end.

  • Qb1T

    No, man by nature is *not* bloody and barbaric, it's just that Americans are condition to he is.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/H5ECKXV7UHS4FQNNJIANL5VXHE Richard

    Wow! That's quite a leap! 75 men? Was there ever a mutiny in York? I could be wrong but I thought the punishment was one in ten. If a tiger had a hold of your collar bone you'd think it would crush and tear. Those puncture wounds look like arrow wounds. If you were in a legion you fought all the time. Slash wounds, arrow wounds in the right shoulder[ the side not covered by the shield] blunt trauma caused by some nutted up Pict with a war hammer. The Romans considered gladiators no better then cattle. I doubt very much that they were buried with gifts for the afterlife. Just seems like in order to sell history it needs to be over-hyped. Nasty,brutish and short was what it was. For everyone..

  • Aydrese

    That is not true that they considered gladiators no better then cattle. In Rome, if you gave your life for entertainment you were buried with respect.