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Biocultural interpretations of trauma in two prehistoric Pacific Island populations from Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

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Abstract

Two Pacific Island skeletal samples originating from the inland site of Nebira, Papua New Guinea (1230–1650) and a coastal site on the small island of Taumako, Solomon Islands (1530–1698) were examined for evidence of skeletal trauma using a biocultural approach. The types of trauma identified were cranial trauma, postcranial fractures, and piercing and sharp force trauma. Both samples exhibit trauma (Nebira, n = 9/28, 32.1%; Taumako, n = 17/133, 12.8%). Postcranial fractures are significantly higher in males from Nebira (Fisher Exact P value = 0.025). The prevalence of cranial trauma (n = 6/28, 21.4%) is significantly higher in Nebira individuals (Fisher Exact P value = 0.007). There is no conclusive evidence of piercing trauma at Nebira unlike Taumako, which has four individuals with evidence of piercing or sharp force trauma. Both samples show evidence of interpersonal violence and warfare. The results suggest the environment may have contributed to the pattern of trauma at these sites. These patterns are discussed within their cultural and environmental contexts. Am J Phys Anthropol 142:509–518, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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