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A Re-appraisal of the Evidence for Violence in the Late Iron Age Human Remains from Maiden Castle Hillfort, Dorset, England

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2013

Rebecca C. Redfern
Affiliation:
Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London, EC2Y 5HN

Abstract

The human remains excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler from Maiden Castle hillfort (Dorset, England) were recorded by the author in the first re-examination of the sample since Wheeler's 1943 publication. This study focuses on the osteological evidence for trauma, and employed bioarchaeological, clinical, and forensic methods to identify and interpret the skeletal evidence for ante- and peri-mortem fractures, blunt-force cranial trauma, and sharp and blunt projectile injuries. Examination of the human remains found overwhelming evidence for targeted blows to the head and body, assault injuries, and over-kill. Skeletal evidence for trauma was identified in adolescent and adult individuals, suggesting that both sexes and older subadults were exposed to and/or engaged in martial activity during the Late Iron Age. The presence of healed direct-force traumas suggests that many had survived previous episodes of interpersonal violence. The higher crude prevalence rates of trauma in the late Iron Age Belgic war cemetery and Iron Age C groups suggest that these burials reflect multiple episodes of intra- or intertribal warfare and may potentially provide evidence for the Roman invasion in ad 43.

Résumé

Les restes humains extraits de la forteresse de Maiden Castle, (Dorset, Angleterre) par Sir Mortimer Wheeler ont été répertoriés par l'auteur au cours de la première ré-examination de l'échantillon depuis la publication de Wheeler en 1943. Cette étude se concentre sur les témoignages ostéologiques de traumatisme, et a employé des méthodes bio-archéologiques, cliniques et médico-légales pour identifier et interpréter sur le squelette les traces de fractures avant et après la mort, de traumatismes crâniens dûs à des coups portés avec force et de blessures dûes à des projectiles pointus ou contondants. L'examen des restes humains a découvert des preuves accablantes de coups portés volontairement à la tête et au corps, de blessures dûes à des agressions et de motalité excessive. On a identifié des signes de traumatisme sur des squelettes d'adolescents et d'adultes, ce qui donne à penser que les deux sexes et les pré-adultes les plus âgés étaient exposés ou participaient à des activités guerrières pendant l'âge du fer final. La présence de traumatismes dûs à des coups directs cicatrisés indique que beaucoup avaient survécu à des épisodes antérieurs de violence entre personnes. Des taux de traumatisme plus élevés prévalents dans les groupes des cimetières de guerre de l'âge du fer final des Belges et de l'âge du fer des groupes C indiquent que ces inhumations reflètent de multiples épisodes de guerre intra- et inter-tribales et pourraient éventuellement fournir des preuves de l'invasion romaine en 43 ap. J.-C.

Zussamenfassung

Die von Sir Mortimer Wheeler in der Höhenbefestigung Maiden Castle (Dorset, England) ausgegrabenen menschlichen Überreste wurden von der Autorin in der ersten Nachuntersuchung der Proben seit Wheelers Publikation von 1943 neu aufgenommen. Diese Studie konzentriert sich auf die osteologischen Hinweise für Traumata, wofür bioarchäologische, klinische und forensische Methoden angewandt wurden, um am Skelettmaterial Hinweise auf ante- und perimortale Frakturen, durch stumpfe Krafteinwirkung verursachte Schädeltraumata sowie Verletzungen von stumpfen und scharfen Projektilen zu identifizieren und zu interpretieren. Die Untersuchung der menschlichen Reste erbrachte überwältigende Hinweise für gezielte Hiebe auf Kopf und Körper, Angriffsverletzungen und „Mehrfachtötung‟ (over-kill). Sowohl bei adoleszenten als auch adulten Individuen wurden Hinweise auf Traumata festgestellt, was darauf hinweist, dass beide Geschlechter und ältere Subadulte in der späten Eisenzeit kriegerischen Handlungen ausgesetzt oder an ihnen beteiligt waren. Die Existenz verheilter Traumata, die auf direkte Gewalteinwirkung zurückzuführen sind, deutet an, dass viele Individuen frühere Begebenheiten interpersonaler Gewalt überlebt hatten. Die höheren Prävalenzraten an Traumata im späteisenzeitlichen „Belgic War‟ Gráberfeld und der zeitgleichen „Iron Age C‟ Gruppen legt den Schluss nahe, dass diese Bestattungen vielfache Episoden von kriegerischen Auseinandersetzungen innerhalb von wie auch zwischen Stämmen reflektieren und möglicherweise Anzeichen für die römische Invasion im Jahr 43 n.Chr. liefern.

Resumen

Los restos humanos excavados por Sir Mortimer Wheeler en el fuerte de Maiden Castle (Dorset, Inglaterra) han sido analizados por la autora en lo que constituye el primer re-examen del conjunto desde su publicación por Wheeler en 1943. Este estudio se centra en la evidencia osteológica de trauma, y emplea métodos bioarqueológicos, clínicos, y forenses para identificar e interpretar la evidencia de los esqueletos para fracturas ante- y perimortem, trauma craneal ocasionado por golpes, y lesiones por proyectil afilado o romo. El examen de los restos humanos encontró una evidencia abrumadora de golpes intencionados a la cabeza y al cuerpo, de lesiones correspondientes a ataques, y ensañamiento. La evidencia de trauma en los esqueletos pudo ser identificada en individuos adolescentes y adultos, lo que sugiere que los dos sexos y sub-adultos más mayores estuvieron expuestos a/o envueltos en actividades marciales durante la tarda Edad del Hierro. La presencia de traumas por fuerza directa curados sugiere que muchos sobrevivieron a episodios previos de violencia interpersonal. Las tasas crudas de preponderancia de trauma más altas en los grupos del cementerio de guerra belga de la tarda Edad del Hierro y de la Edad del Hierro C parecen indicar que estos enterramientos reflejan múltiples episodios de conflicto intra- o intertribal y puede potencialmente proporcionar evidencia de la invasión romana del año 43 d.C.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2011

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A Re-appraisal of the Evidence for Violence in the Late Iron Age Human Remains from Maiden Castle Hillfort, Dorset, England
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