First analysis of multiple blunt force weapon-tools using skin-skull-brain models to evaluate inter-personal violence in the European Neolithic
Dyer, Meaghan Jean
The study of violence-related head trauma is often complicated as a variety of weapons can produce similar forms of injury, which has limited the analysis of some forms of violence during the Neolithic in Europe. The current uses experimental bioarchaeology to provide a new and improved method for the identification of multiple prehistoric blunt force weapon-tools through fracture analysis, facilitating a better understanding of Neolithic violence and social interaction. Using synthetic skin-skull-brain models and a specialised mounting system, five typologies of Neolithic tool were tested to analyse the fracture morphology they produce. These weapon-tools formed fracture patterns that are differentiable from each other with differing matches to antemortem and perimortem trauma in the osteological record. The fracture patterns clearly establish that antler picks, antler hammers, stone hammers and ball-headed clubs could have been used as weapons during the period. The variance in fracture patterns suggests that weapons may have been purposefully selected for differing scenarios of violence; implying non-lethal and lethal trauma had different motivations. The more common antemortem trauma in the osteological record may suggest a pattern of raiding and resource competition where opponents at times still attempted to preserve life. This is interspersed with less common examples of perimortem injuries produced by weaponry likely chosen with the intent to kill. This research clearly demonstrates the dynamic nature of interpersonal conflict during the Neolithic in Western and Central Europe, with many varying scenarios and motivations for violence. Analysis of these complex variations is necessary to improve understanding of this pivotal period in human history. Due to the similar nature of prehistoric weaponry, the results of the current study has far reaching implications to other prehistoric trauma research and the methodology has applications for blunt force trauma studies throughout archaeological time periods and forensic research.