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Analyzing Bloodstains in Ancient Rome

The study of forensics dates back to Roman times. In fact, the term “forensics” is derived from the Latin word "forum" because the Romans presented their legal charges in the public square. While the Romans did not have a specific term for or understanding of forensic science, Quintilian, a Roman jurist, used bloodstain pattern analysis to win a murder case. The case I’m thinking of, “Paries Palmatus” or “The Wall of Handprints”, involved a blind son accused of stabbing his father to obtain his inheritance.

In THE DEADLIEST SPORT, Miriam likewise examines the blood spatters in Kastor’s room in The Pegasus, the sleazy waterfront inn where this jackal-faced slave was bludgeoned to death:

First, I wanted to examine the floor. Hunkering down, I began by observing the blood stain near the door. If Kastor had been struck from behind, a reasonable assumption based on all accounts, he’d probably been trying to get away. Then, on the door itself, I saw across its width a line of bloody blobs, each with a tail cascading to the floor. As I circled the room, I saw various patterns, some drips small and round, others larger, even irregular like tear drops, with their own constellation of spatters on not only the floor but the furniture, even the windowsill.

THE DEADLIEST SPORT is a locked-room murder mystery, that is, a story about the solving of a crime, usually murder, that appears impossible to have been committed. The crime need not have taken place inside a locked room, as in The Pegasus, but in any utterly inaccessible place. To see how Miriam solved a baffling case using the forensic knowledge of her time, just click here.

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