Medieval Mystery Unveiled: Shattered Skeleton Reveals Failed Beheading, Followed by Execution by Torture Wheel


AN ANCIENT skeleton believed to have been shattered by a ‘wheel of torture’ has been uncovered in Milan.

medieval skeleton

The gruesome medieval remains were found with two buckle bindings, which are thought to be a telltale sign of the young man’s demise.

Archaeologists discovered the ‘torture victim’ along with 56 other individuals dating from the Roman Empire to the 16th century.


These skeletons were found underneath San Ambrogio Square in Milan but the shattered medieval remains of a young man stood out because he had clearly suffered a more painful death.

Death by torture is thought to have been common in medieval Italy and skilled executioners used lots of different methods and devices to inflict agonising pain.

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However, the researchers who found the medieval man in question have published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science detailing how it could be one of the most horrific cases of torture ever found.

The researchers from the Università degli Studi di Milano think the man was between 17 and 20 years old when he died.

Radio-chemical testing suggests he lived between 1290 and 1430AD.

It was initially thought that he had died in battle but the skeletal wounds were so horrific and different to the other skeletons around him that it was clear something much more sinister had happened.

victims teeth

The long bones in his arms and legs and been shattered in a precise way, he had a stab wound in his back and there is evidence to suggest a bungled beheading attempt occurred before the final punishment of the wheel.

The buckles found next to the skeleton are the key linking factor to the wheel of death theory.

This is because the researchers knew that ‘wheel torture’ involved victims being tied to a wooden wheel and having their limbs shattered.

The victim would then have their body parts looped through the spokes of the wheel and they would be raised onto a pole before being lowered and beaten once more.

It is thought that the buckles next to the skeleton probably bound broken body parts together or bound a shroud onto the victim.

There are few archaeological examples of this torture method, likely because it was reserved for people who committed the worst kind of crimes like spreading the Black Death.

high res skulls

However, the researchers think that this man could have been killed merely for looking different to the rest of society as he had bucked teeth and was 4.3 inches shorter than the average height for his age.

They argued that in a materialistic society this person may have sparked mass-hysteria and may have been blamed for problems by an angry crowd.

If this is true then the remains could represent a tragic historic discrimination event.

Previous research has suggested that people in medieval Italy would often treat people with disfigurements cruelly.

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The researchers wrote: “This case describes for the first time the remains of a victim of the wheel and underlines the importance of archaeology and anthropology in reconstructing cases of violation of human rights in the past.”

In other archaeology news, Captain Cook’s lost Endeavour ship that ‘discovered’ Australia ‘finally found sunk off coast of Rhode Island.

An eerie mass grave filled with bodies butchered by Mongol invaders has been uncovered in Russia.

And, we’ve rounded up some of the most brutal ancient burial sites ever discovered.



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