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2,500-Year-Old Bone Fragment from Forearm of Greek Warrior X-rayed at LIJ

May 21, 2013

Dr. Helise Coopersmith, North Shore-LIJ musculosketal radiologist, joins Anagnostis Agelarakis, professor and chair of Anthropology at Adelphi University, and Argie Agelarakis, a scientific illustrator as they examine a bone fragment 2,500 years old.

NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- It took less than 10 seconds to reveal the truth about a wounded Greek warrior whose remains are more than 2,500 years. After a Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center  radiologist performed an X-ray on a bone fragment from the soldier, an Adelphi University archaeologist confirmed on Monday his hypothesis about the veteran and how he survived a devastating injury that plagued him until his death.

Anagnostis Agelarakis, a professor and chair of Anthropology at Adelphi, says the remains of the soldier were discovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by the Greek Archaeological Service. On official loan from Greece, the remains were somewhat incomplete, but Prof. Agelarakis was able to bring back to the US parts of the man’s skull and fragments of his left ulna (a major bone in the forearm), in which a bronze arrowhead is embedded.

Prof. Agelarakis' colleagues date the grave of the wounded warrior shot with this arrow to the time of Philip the Second, father of Alexander the Great. From his knowledge of weapon wounds, the surgical treatment of the time and careful forensic anthropology analysis, Prof. Agelarakis deduced that the shaft of the arrow and part of one of its three lobes had been removed by Greek field surgeons. However, the rest of the arrowhead suspected to be hooked (barbed) had to be left in place, because attempts to remove it were unsuccessful.  The results of the X-ray taken by LIJ radiologist Helise Coopersmith  proved conclusively that the arrowhead was, in fact, hooked and had to be kept in place to preserve the tissue of the warrior’s arm. Crude attempts to remove the arrowhead (without the benefit of anesthesia) would have been extremely painful, he noted.

Prof. Agelarakis says he believes that the warrior survived and lived with the embedded arrowhead, probably until the age of 58 to 62 years. Amazingly, even though the bone shows no sign of immediate infection, the warrior would have lost certain abilities to turn his arm and enjoy a good hand grip. He lived with constant pain, akin to very severe carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as post-traumatic syndrome effects. Dr. Coopersmith, a musculosketal radiologist who specializes in reading X-rays of broken bones, said the procedure confirms that the warrior would have lived in great pain for years after sustaining his injury on the battlefield.

After the X-ray had been read and analyzed, Professor Agelarakis noted, “An examination of this type allows us to have more empathy with our own veterans who are returning from the battlefield with injuries.” He also presented photographs of the skull of the warrior along with an astounding forensic facial reconstruction done by Professor Argie Agelarakis and her students.

  • Media Contacts:

    Michelle Pinto, Director, Media Relations
    (516) 465-2649
    mpinto@nshs.edu
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