Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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X-Rays Tell Story of Ancient Greek Soldier’s Wound

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

HEMPSTEAD, NEW YORK—Anagnostis Agelarakis of Adelphi University took a 2,500-year-old arm bone pierced with a bronze arrowhead that had been discovered in Northern Greece to Dr. Helise Coopersmith, a musculoskeletal and body imaging radiologist for the North Shore LIJ Health System and a professor at Hofstra University. Agelarakis suspected that ancient Greek surgeons had not removed the piece of arrowhead from the soldier’s ulna because a barb at its end anchored it to the bone. Moving it would have caused even more damage to the man’s arm. Coopersmith’s x-rays of the bone showed that the arrowhead indeed had a barb at its end, and that a bony spur had grown around it. She could tell that the soldier survived his wound without suffering a life-threatening infection. However, the arrowhead would have made it difficult for the battle-scarred veteran to flex his fingers.