• Mesopotamia;
  • trauma;
  • palaeopathology;
  • differential diagnosis


Recently, a report on two human skeletons from an Early Bronze Age tomb excavated at Tell Ashara, Syria has been published in International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. One individual was identified as a warrior following these criteria: (i) size and robustness of bones, (ii) cut marks on the humerus, (iii) reduction of the ulnar styloid process, both interpreted as healed weapon-related trauma, (iv) well-developed muscle insertions, and (v) degenerative joint disease. Actually, none of these five criteria support the conclusion because of the following reasons: (i) not necessarily all tall and robust men become warriors, (ii) the post mortem origin of cut marks on the humerus is more likely than sharp force trauma, (iii) there are several possible causes of the unusual ulnar styloid shape other than weapon-related trauma, (iv) the interpretation of musculoskeletal stress markers and (v) degenerative joint disease lacked control for age, sex and body size. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.