Chapter

Deciphering Violence in Past Societies: Ethnography and the Interpretation of Archaeological Populations

Ryan P. Harrod, Pierre Liénard and Debra L. Martin

in The Bioarchaeology of Violence

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780813041506
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780813043876 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813041506.003.0004
Deciphering Violence in Past Societies: Ethnography and the Interpretation of Archaeological Populations

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Although finding evidence of healed trauma in archaeological populations is fairly straightforward, the interpretation of that evidence is less so. Ryan P. Harrod, Pierre Liénard, and Debra L. Martin gathered data on healed injury among an extant population of Kenyan pastoralists, the Turkana. Their study documents cases of healed trauma resulting from all types of injuries. The findings indicate that a significant percentage of the adult population reported trauma from accident or occupational activities as well as from violent interactions. For both males and females, injury related to violence occurred primarily as cranial trauma. Injury recidivism was analyzed by comparing both the self-reported rate of corporal punishment as children and later injury as adults, as well as the co-occurrence of cranial trauma with other injuries. Both an early exposure to violence and the existence of additional injuries is predictive of cranial trauma in later life.

Keywords: Ethnobioarchaeology; Ethnographic analogy; Violence; Nonlethal trauma; Accidental trauma; Injury recidivism; East Africa pastoralism

Chapter.  6353 words. 

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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