Cranial traumatic injuries caused by weapons in Tokugawa Japan


  • Tomohito Nagaoka

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, Kawasaki, Japan
    • Department of Anatomy, St. Marianna University School of Medicine, 2-16-1 Sugao, Miyamae Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa 216-8511, Japan.
    Search for more papers by this author


Weapon-related traumas on human skeletons provide us with direct evidence of violence in archaeological and forensic contexts. The purposes of this study are to describe the weapon-related traumas on Edo-period (AD 17th–19th centuries) human skeletons from the Hitotsubashi site (Tokyo, Japan), to examine their presence, distribution and variability, and finally to better understand violence during that period. The specimens observed here are two adult males exhibiting eight traumas: five sharp-force traumas caused by edged blades (62.5%) and three blunt-force traumas with radiating fractures (37.5%). The frequency of individuals with traumas is 1.0% out of 207 individuals and 3.3% out of 64 adult males. The traumas found on the Hitotsubashi crania are distinguishable from those on the medieval crania in terms of low traumatic frequency. These observations shed new light on the life and death situations of the Edo inhabitants from osteoarchaeological perspectives. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.