Latest Issue of Science News


News

Early chemical warfare comes to light

Remains of a Roman garrison in Syria document a third-century battle and offer a glimpse of a grisly tunnel fight

PHILADELPHIA — Roman soldiers defending a Middle Eastern garrison from attack nearly 2,000 years ago met the horrors of war in a most unusual place. Inside a cramped tunnel beneath the site’s massive front wall, enemy fighters stacked up nearly two dozen dead or dying Romans and set them on fire, using substances that gave off toxic fumes and drove away Roman warriors just outside the tunnel. The attackers, members of Persia’s Sasanian culture that held sway over much of the region in and around the Middle East from the third to the seventh centuries, adopted a brutally ingenious method for penetrating the garrison wall, reported Simon James of the University of Leicester in England on January 10 at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

X
This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.