Reconstructing the Life Of A Roman Soldier Buried in Resnik near Split, Based on the Anthropological Analysis of His Skeleton

Mario Šlaus, Alka Domić Kunić, Tara Pivac, Anita Adamić Hadžić


Continuous heavy physical labor and the habitual performance of specific actions during everyday activities affects bone and modifies its morphology, particularly if these activities were time consuming and began at an early age. Analysis and interpretation of these changes provides a unique view into the quality of life, the quantity and type of labor, as well as the risks associated with specific occupations or activities. Here we present the results of an anthropological analysis of a skeleton excavated from the antique necropolis in Resnik. Recovered archaeological finds from the grave (a socketed spear head) suggest that the buried individual was in some way related to the Roman army, possibly as a legionary or as a beneficiary. Osteological data from the skeleton was compared to a theoretical and idealized representation of a perfect Roman soldier, as reported by Vegetius Renatus in his work "Summary of military skill" (Epitome rei militaris), in order to reconstruct the life of a real Roman legionary who served in the Roman province of Dalmatia at the end of the 2nd c. AD. The skeleton provides information on general living conditions in the 2nd c. AD, as well as on the specific risks associated with military life. General living conditions include parasitic infestations and subsequent anemia that resulted in numerous viral and bacterial infections, while specific risks related to military life include numerous osteological indicators of physical stress and heavy physical labor. The presences of two remodeled antemortem fractures show that the risk of traumatic injuries was high in Roman soldiers.


paleopathology, osteological markers of physical stress, trauma analysis, Roman soldier, Croatia

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