Archaeologists excavating the ruins of an ancient Etruscan city in central Tuscany came across a surprising find that appears to be the first of its kind. The researchers were digging near Populonia, a seaside Etruscan iron working settlement, when they came across a shallow grave containing a bound and shackled skeleton. All other skeletons found at the site were buried according to more traditional burial rites. Archaeologists are puzzled as to why this particular skeleton might have been buried in such a way, since no other similarly bound skeletons have been found at previous Etruscan archaeological excavations.

The skeleton has been estimated to be around 2,500 years old, dating it to the height of the Etruscan civilization. It is believed to have belonged to a male between 20 and 30 years old. Giorgio Baratti, professor of archaeology at the University of Milan, told Seeker that the man appears to have died while bound and shackled, possibly in some sort of torture device:

He died in shackles and was buried with a shroud tied to the body. We found a black spot under the nape, most likely what remained of a wood object which was likely connected to the iron collar. Notably, he was interred in a necropolis which features normal burials. This is something you would not expect.

Directly above the grave of the shackled man were other more traditional graves, indicating that multiple tombs and necropolises were constructed over several centuries at the same site. While historical evidence of Etruscan culture indicates that they were by most accounts a peaceful people who enjoyed winemaking and the arts, this find could indicate a previously unknown darker side to the mysterious lost civilization. Some scholars have speculated that the Etruscans might have even practiced human sacrifice, although evidence remains scant.

Despite recent archaeological finds that have shed some light on the mysterious Etruscan culture, very little is still known about them due to their rapid assimilation into Roman culture. However, many aspects of their civilization were incorporated into larger Roman society, ensuring some parts of Etruscan culture would live on through Rome’s legacy.