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Last Updated: Thursday May 03 2007 14:09 GMT

Gladiator bones show gory secrets

Gladiator skulls

Scientists have discovered a mass grave which they think belonged to ancient Roman fighters called gladiators.

Gladiators were the sporting superstars of their day and thousands of people gathered in arenas to watch them fight to the death.

The bones in the graves have revealed loads about how gladiators lived, fought and died.

Most of them were vegetarians and under 30, and many died during fights, or afterwards if they were 'cowards'.

If the audience thought a gladiator had not shown enough skill they'd shout to have him lanced - stabbed through the heart.

The condemned gladiator would have been expected to die calmly and would remain still while they were killed with a sword.

Scientists who studied the bones, which were found in Turkey, also report skulls with three unhealed holes in - meaning they were killed with a fork to the head.

Top fighter

A gladiator
A gladiator
And some died of hammer blows, suggesting those who were badly injured might have been killed so they didn't suffer anymore.

If the fighters survived three years as a fighter they were freed and many became gladiator teachers.

At least one skeleton had old wounds which means he probably retired and died of old age.

There were 68 skeletons in the grave and it took scientists five years to piece the bones together.

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