Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


31 January 2018


Around 430 BC, a mysterious disease causes the sudden death of many Athenians. 150 men, women and children are hastily buried in a mass grave in the cemetery of Kerameikos. During works for the construction of the Athens Metro, the common grave with the victims of the plague is excavated. One of the victims is an 11 year-old girl, Myrtis. Today, Myrtis comes face to face with the citizens of the 21st century…

In 1994-95 excavations in the region of Kerameikos, on the occasion of the construction of the Athens Metro, revealed an ancient mass grave containing skeletal remains of around 150 people (men, women and children). The findings of the mass burial (the disordered and hasty burial and the dating of the few funerary gifts) led the archaeologists to the conclusion that it contained victims of the plague that struck Athens in 430 B.C. The study of this skeletal material with modern laboratorial methods of DNA analysis aimed to the identification of the causative factor of the deadly plague. The dental-medical research team used as study material the pulp of three intact teeth, from three randomly selected skulls, in which traces of the microbial factor were located. Scientists identified the bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhi.

Among the bones was the skull of an 11 year-old girl, Myrtis, as she was called by the team of scientists. The excellent condition of the skull prompted the orthodontic research team to reconstruct the face. For this purpose, a replica of the skull was manufactured with the most modern scientific methods and it traveled from Greece to a laboratory in Sweden, where, with special reconstruction techniques, it took form and became the person we see today. After 2,500 years, Myrtis “comes back to life”.


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