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Culturally Determined Patterns of Violence: Biological Anthropological Investigations at a Historic Urban Cemetery

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Abstract

Patterns of violence and the type and distribution of resulting injuries are highly culturally specific. In this study, skeletal data from a historic cemetery (St. Martin's, England) are combined with contemporary sources and modern clinical data to enable the patterning of violence-related injuries to be interpreted. Particular consideration was given to the possibility of a relationship between commonly occurring types of violence and those that are popular in sport. Phillip Walker (1997) suggested that the growth of fist fighting in the early-20th-century United States was stimulated by the rising popularity of boxing. At St. Martin's, a pattern of injuries consistent with fighting in a style specific to boxing is evident, suggesting that developing boxing styles were influential in 18th- and 19th-century Britain as the accepted way of settling interpersonal disputes. This research underlines the importance of interpreting skeletal data in their specific cultural context to gain the maximum information on patterns of behavior.

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