The remaining men, including more than 800 exhausted survivors, were told to convert to Islam. As they refused, they were taken to a hill and beheaded one by one.
The remains of the martyrs are now impressively exposed behind five large glass cabinets in the Cathedral of Otranto. In particular, the skulls are meticulously lined up in horizontal rows, with the facial bones turned toward the visitors.
However, in a low row of the central window, a skull is positioned with the face toward the ceiling and the cranium facing visitors.
"The specimen was probably arranged in this manner so as to show a series of holes on the cranial vault," Gino Fornaciari, professor of history of medicine and paleopathology at the University of Pisa, and colleagues wrote in the February issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Although the window could not be opened and so the skull could not be removed for study, the researchers noted that the holes featured a regular, rounded shape.
Of the 16 holes, eight turned out to be complete perforations, involving the bone in all its thickness and producing a rounded, conical-shaped hole. The edges featured rounded walls.