A rising supermoon shines through the Propylaea, the ancient Acropolis hill gateway, in Athens, where the ancient Olympic champion Cylon and his army supposedly took refuge while unsuccessfully trying to conquer the city. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Scientists are testing the DNA and composition of skeletons found in Greece to figure out whether the dozens of shackled men in the burial pit who were killed in political executions are the ancient army of Cylon, the first Olympic champion who later tried to conquer Athens.

According to a report from news service Agence France-Presse, archaeologists are using forensic and high-tech methods to learn more about how the men lived and died, including how old they were and where they were from. They were found last year among a mass grave of about 1,500 skeletons in Phaleron, near Athens, and could be from the 7th century BC.

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Although they have yet to confirm many details about the bones, experts say the men who were bound and executed — there is evidence of them meeting violent ends — could have belonged to the army of Cylon.

There are also skeletons in the excavation area from nonviolent deaths, including children and infants whose remains were stored in jars. The scientists are exploring their backgrounds as well to learn more about their lives and whether they died of disease. That in turn could teach us more about the experiences of the average person in ancient Greece, supplementing all the recorded tales from that civilization that focus on just the wealthy or important figures through its history.

Cylon was a champion in a footrace known as the Diaulos in the ancient Olympic games around 640 BC. He was the first recorded Olympic winner. But the story goes that the man, who was born to a noble family from Athens, wanted to rule the city and later went on the offensive to install himself as a tyrant. He and his men were eventually beaten back and tried to find refuge in the Acropolis, the fortified hilltop site that served as a religious and cultural center and still stands today.

They surrendered and, controversially, the army was executed, although Cylon himself may have escaped.

The bones of the 80 men in the unmarked grave who may have been part of Cylon’s army show that they were young and well-fed — based on the condition of their teeth — before being killed with blows to the head, according to AFP. Some of them were found lying on their backs while others were facedown, but all had iron chains around their hands. With some of the deceased, their hands were bound above their heads.

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They would have died as Athens was becoming a democratic city “against a backdrop of political turmoil, tensions between tyrants, aristocrats and the working class,” bioarchaeological researcher Eleanna Prevedorou told AFP.

Besides being a prisoner of war, a bound person could have been “a criminal or a runaway slave,” she said.

When the bodies were uncovered last year, the archaeologists reported that pottery recovered along with the skeletons suggested they dated to between 650 and 625 BC, which puts their deaths within a reasonable time period to place them in the army of Cylon, if further evidence backs up that idea.