Possible relationship of cranial traumatic injuries with violence in the south-east Iberian Peninsula from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age



The main aim of this study was to analyze the presence and distribution of cranial trauma, as possible evidence of violence, in remains from the Neolithic to Bronze Age from the SE Iberian Peninsula. The sample contains skulls, crania, and cranial vaults belonging to 410 prehistoric individuals. We also studied 267 crania from medieval and modern times for comparative purposes. All lesions in the prehistoric crania are healed and none of them can be attributed to a specific weapon. In all studied populations, injuries were more frequent in adults than in subadults and also in males than in females, denoting a sexual division in the risk of suffering accidents or intentional violence. According to the archeological record, the development of societies in the SE Iberian Peninsula during these periods must have entailed an increase in conflict. However, a high frequency of cranial traumatic injuries was observed in the Neolithic series, theoretically a less conflictive time, and the lowest frequency was in crania from the 3rd millennium B.C. (Copper Age), which is characterized by the archeologists as a period of increasing violence. The relatively large size and the high rate of injuries in Neolithic crania and the practice of cannibalism are strongly suggestive of episodes of interpersonal or intergroup conflict. The number and distribution of injuries in Bronze Age is consistent with the increase in violence at that time described by most archeologists. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.