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Forensic Evidence From Roman Times

In a previous blog, I wrote about how a Roman defense attorney used evidence from blood spatters to clear his client of a murder charge. In a more recent post, I offered proof that at least some Romans used dental characteristics to confirm the identity of a corpse. But the Romans also used a third kind of forensic evidence, pattern recognition, such as marks of a struggle or footprints.

Professor Jason, Miriam’s advisor from Alexandria’s medical school, shows his awareness of pattern recognition evidence in “The Dagger”, a short story in The Deadliest Deceptions. He asks Phoebe, Miriam’s deputy in the investigation, to check the window in the room of a slain gladiator:

“What should I check for? The window looks ordinary enough.”

“Look for smudges, especially on the sill. The window is rather high, so someone climbing in or out could have left a mark. As for the bushes outside, look for broken branches or torn leaves. Unfortunately, the ground is too dusty for any footprints.”

Likewise, drag marks convinced Emperor Tiberius of a foul murder. Silvanus, a Roman magistrate, dragged his wife to their window before throwing her out. Silvanus, however, claimed that he was sound asleep, knew nothing, and that his wife must have committed suicide. Tiberius went to the house, however, and inspecting the chamber, saw the marks of a struggle and her forcible ejection. Ultimately, Silvanus opted to open his veins.

The lesson here is “Don’t drag your feet,” certainly if you intend to kill a gladiator or your spouse. But also if you intend to buy a copy of The Deadliest Deceptions. It will be for sale soon. To find out when, keep watching here:


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