The harsh life on the 15th century Croatia-Ottoman Empire military border: Analyzing and identifying the reasons for the massacre in Čepin



Excavation of the historic period cemetery in Čepin, Croatia revealed the presence of a large number of perimortem injuries distributed among males, females, and subadults. Archaeological and historical data suggest these individuals were victims of a raid carried out by Turkish akinji light cavalry in 1441. Comparisons with the frequencies of perimortem trauma in 12 other, temporally congruent skeletal series from the Balkans (n = 2,123 skeletons) support this assumption. The role of the akinji in the Ottoman army was twofold: to supply war captives, and to terrorize and disperse local populations before the advance of regular troops. This article tests the hypothesis that the purpose of the 1441 raid was the latter. To accomplish this, perimortem trauma in the series were analyzed by sex, age, location, and depth of the injury. A total of 82 perimortem injuries were recorded in 12 males, 7 females, and 3 subadults. The demographic profile of the victims suggests that young adults were specifically targeted in the attack. Significant sex differences are noted in the number, distribution, and pattern of perimortem trauma. Females exhibit significantly more perimortem injuries per individual, and per bone affected, than males. The morphology and pattern of perimortem trauma in females is suggestive of gratuitous violence. Cumulatively, analysis of the osteological data suggest that the objective of the 1441 akinji raid was to spread terror and panic in the Čepin area, either as revenge for recent military setbacks, or as part of a long-term strategy intended to depopulate the area around Osijek. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.