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The head burials from Ofnet cave: an example of warlike conflict in the Mesolithic

Authors:
Warfare, Violence and Slavery
in Prehistory
Proceedings of a Prehistoric Society conference
at Sheffi eld lJniversity
Edited by
Mike Parker Pearson
f. J. N. Tho{pe
BAR International Series L374
200s
The head burials from Ofnet cave:
an example of warlike conflict in the Mesolithic
Jörg Orschiedt
Archäologisches Institut, University of Hamburg
The circumstances of discovery
During the excavations by Robert Rudolf Schmidt at
Grosser Ofrret in 1908, two.'skull clusters' were
discovered in the immediate vicinity of the cave entrance
(Schmidt 1909; l9l2:34-42;1913). The heads had been
deposited in two pits which were situated within the
Magdalenian layer VI. The 'skull clusters' came from
the Mesolithic layer VII, only 5cm thick, which cut into
the underlying layer (Fig. l). The pits lay only about lm
apart and both were filled by a thick sediment stained
with red ochre and interspersed with flecks of charcoal
and calcified bone. The large skull cluster had a diameter
of 0.76m and, according to new, revised calculations,
contained the heads of 28 individuals. The smaller
cluster, of unknown diameter, contained six individuals.
All the skulls were oriented on the same line of sight,
facing west.
Several other human skeletal remains, probably from the
Bronze Age or Iron Age, were also found near the skulls
within Ofrret cave (Weissmüller 1982:37,71,187, figs 9,
12). The relationship between the skull clusters and one
of these other skull fragments (accompanied by a
mandible and a fragment of cervical vertebra) from Oskar
Fraas' 1875 excavation is unclear (Fraas 1876; Schlitz
1912:241).
1
The absolute dating of the skull clusters has long been
disputed but has been resolved by C1a accelerator dates.
A date in the Late Mesolithic is confirmed by four dates
from Oxford as well as two other dates from Cologne and
Los Angeles (Schulte im Walde et a|.1986; Hedges et al.
1989: 211; Orschiedt 1998).
The human remains
During the examination of the material, the skull and
fragments of the mandible of a neonate (designated 9A')
were identified amongst the skeletal remains of
Individual 9 (a four or five year-old child). The skeletal
remains thus consist of 34 crania with mandibles and82
cervical vertebrae in total.
All the individuals were apparently deposited very soon
after death occurred, as not only the lower jaw but also
the cervical vertebrae were found to be still articulated.
The skulls are in a quantatively variable state of
preservation, whereas the qualitative preservation is
designated as good to very good. In some cases there is
major damage to the children's skulls which can be
explained by the lack of robustness of the bone. The age
determination (Table 1) shows a preponderance of
individuals in the age group 'infant I' (ages l-6; 16
individuals;46%). Likewise the age band 'young adult'
rt-- lll0rn.--+
FIcunr 1. Cross-section of the cave entrance area at Grosser Ofiret, showing the skull clusters (Schmidt I9l2: fig. 6).
67
WanranB, VtotnNCE AND Sraveny rN PnBrusroRy
elderly
older mature
adult
mature adult
older adult
young adult
juvenile
infant ll
infant I
neonate
05101520
T,tnr,r 1. The age and sex determination of the Ofnet skulls.
(20-30 years) is well represented with 10 individuals
(29%). The entire age range extends from neonate (0-1
year old) to elderly (60-70 years old).
The sex determination of the skulls (see Table 1)
produced a distinct predominance of females (although
this analysis is restricted by the presence of nine children
for whom sex could not be determined). From this
unequal distribution, it can be concluded that, for the
skeletal remains at issue here, it is not a question of a
complete population in the conventional demographic
sense (Esenwein-Rothe 1982: 6l). Moreover, the time-
span between the isolated Cla dates leaves a sufficient
period of time for repeated deposition to have occurred at
the site. Accordingly the proposition that the deposition
of the skull clusters was a single occrlffence is not
maintained.
Furthermore, for Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in the
early Atlantic, a small group size is to be expected. As
the forests advanced, the game animals changed and no
longer appeared in herds. With this change in the
environment, the mobility ratio would have increased,
leading to a reduction in group size which, according to
ethnographic data (Müller-Beck 1983: 401: Helbling
1987: 218), comprises an average of 25 people for
modern hunter-gatherers. On these grounds it is to be
assumed that the skull clusters in the Grosser Ofnet cave
represent the repeated use of a burial site by one or more
groups.
The grave goods
Among the grave goods were 215 pierced teeth of red
deer (Cervus elophus) and 4,250 shell omaments
(Litho glwus naticoides, Neritina fluviatis L., Columb ella
rustica and Carinifex multiformis). The teeth were
described as actually cemented together in some cases;
some of them were lying on top of the skulls, as were
individual shells. In the majority of cases, however, the
teeth and the shell ornaments were found lying beneath
the neck region (Schmidt I9l2: 37). Twenty stone
artefacts found from the burial level and within the pit fill
are not to be viewed as offerings but rather they denote a
component of the culture layer VII. Like the artefacts
from layer VII, they belong to the Eaü and Late
Mesolithic (Müller-Beck 1983: 396). Among the
artefacts described more specifically were two geometric
triangles which are dated to Beuronian A or B (Naber
t974:78-9).
In the analysis of the distribution of grave goods and their
association with particular individuals, certain difficulties
arise. Judging by the excavation methodology, it is in the
first place probable that not all grave goods were
retrieved- As well as losses during the excavation itself,
it is necessary to take into account later museum losses
resulting from the very small size of the artefacts. The
incomplete recording of the grave goods can be deduced
from the fact that, during the recent preparation of the
skeletons, a total of eight pieces of shell jewellery, seven
flints and 26 fragments of animal bone were identified.
Furthermore, uncertainties arise regarding the association
of grave goods and individuals made during the original
excavation. The tightly packed context of the skulls and
the excavation methods of the time leave it open to doubt
whether the grave goods can be ascribed to individual
skeletons.
Red deer teeth as grave goods can be assigned securely to
62%o of the individuals and shell ornaments to 7I%o. For
only two individuals were there no identified offerings.
In contrast to the shell jewellery, the teeth were counted
out so their distribution can be more closely
differentiated. With respect to the quantity of grave
goods, there is a distinct disproportion between adults
and children (Table 2). With 19 individuals, children
make up half the total number of individuals present, yet
only 54 teeth are associated with them, in contrast to 167
items counted for the adult individuals in total.
Nonetheless, 607o of children and 64%o of adults were
provided with red deer teeth as grave goods. Furthermore
it is evident that among the adults, it is above all the
female individuals who possessed the greater share of the
teeth (Table 2).
Less clear are the proportions for the shell ornaments.
Here the children are equipped quantatively more
abundantly than are the adults. Shell jewellery was
detected irrespective of age with 77Yo of the females,
75Yo of males and 57%o of individuals of indeterminate
sex. On further inspection differentiating by age, it is
apparent that 65% of children and 85% of adults were
provided with shell ornaments as grave goods.
68
Jönc Onscnmor: THn HEAD BURIALS FRoM OnNrr cAVE: AN EXAMpLE oF wARLTKE coNFLICT IN THE MESoLITHTc
inf (m) inf (f) inf (indet.) ad - eld (m) ad - eld (f)
Tasr,r 2. The distribution of red deer teeth according
to age group.
It is clear that several of the conclusions advanced by
R.R. Schmidt must be re-examined. Contrary to his
statements, offerings of red deer teeth were clearly given
to male individuals. Moreover, there is no increase in the
number of teeth with individuals of advanced age. The
highest number of items - 69 in all - was found with a
young adult woman (Ofnet 3), whereas 36 teeth (the next
highest number) belonged to an old woman (Ofnet 18).
Traces of skeletal injuries
The occurrence of cut-marks on the cervical vertebrae of
some individuals was first pointed out in the publication
by Schmidt of the discoveries from Grosser Ofnet
(Schmidt 1912: 37; Bdgouen 1912). A complete
examination of all cervical vertebrae was not carried out
atthat time. As a consequence of the search for traces of
bone modification or iojnry, the surfaces of all cervical
vertebrae have therefore been re-examined systematically
with a binocular microscope (at up to x40 magnification)
and with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). In order
to make the completion of the investigation easier and to
avoid damage to the original surfaces of the bone, the re-
examination of recorded cut-marks under the SEM took
place with the help of a two-phase method of making
casts (Haidle and Orschiedt 1995).
Frcunr 2. Cut-marks on the fourth cervical vertebra (C4) from
Individual20 from Grosser Ofiret.
Cut-marks were determined on the body of the cervical
vertebrae of seven individuals (Fig. 2). In five cases, the
fourth vertebra shows cut-marks. According to
Schmidt's data, cut-marks were apparent on two further
individuals. These findings could not be verified since
the relevant bones could no longer be located and appear
to be missing. Nevertheless, a photograph survives of
one of these items that allows us to distinguish
unmistakable cut-marks (Schmidt 1912: pl. XII.16).
From this evidence, it is reasonable to accept Schmidt's
statement. Therefore there appear to be nine individuals
in total with cut-marks on the cervical vertebrae.
The absence of cut-marks on the cervical vertebrae of the
remaining individuals is not to be interpreted as evidence
of a distinctive method of decapitation. Removal of the
head from the body must unavoidably leave cut-marks on
the cervical vertebrae, notwithstanding the fact that this is
demonstrable on only a small proportion of the
individuals from Grosser Ofnet, so it is to be assumed
that the cervical vertebrae bearing the corresponding cut-
marks remained with the torso.
During the reassembling and preparation of the Ofnet
skulls by T. Mollison in the 1930s, numerous defects and
injuries were recognized which could not be attributed to
decay or post-depositional events (Mollison 1936).
Mollison documented definite and probable ante-mortem
slash wounds on a total of 2l skulls. Only five
individuals showed the defects as definite slash wounds.
In spite of the detailed descriptions recorded for these
bone defects, the findings could not always be re-
confirmed. With the group of probable slash wounds, it
was a problem to differentiate these injuries from damage
caused by taphonomic processes. For this reason, a
complete re-investigation of all the skulls was
undertaken, which considered differentially diagnostic
features (Orschiedt 1998; 1999). Possible ante-mortem
skull injuries were analysed according to the conventional
criteria of forensic medicine (Brückner and Hinze 1991
93-5; Polson 1965: 126-38; Maples 1986; Merbs 1989;
Sellier l97l; Ubelaker l99I; Wahl and König 1987: 112-
26). As criteria for determining defects as definite ante-
mortem skull injuries, the following points were applied:
l. the shape of the fracture margin;
2. the funnel-shaped expansion formed from the
penetration of the inner table of the cranial vault
(a bevel);
3. the occurrence of punched-out bone fragments
in the centre of the fracture defect, caused by the
force of a blow (comminution from blunt force
trauma);
4. the occrrrence of radiating and concentric
fracture lines and/or fissures which lead
outwards from the injury, on a regular and
rectilinear course.
On the basis of this examination, 14 definite ante-mortem
skull injuries were observed on a total of six individuals
(Ofnet I, 2, Ll, 21, 24 and 30). On two further
individuals (Ofnet 31 and 32) probable ante-mortem skull
injuries were diagnosed. A precise conclusion was not
69
inf (indet.)
WenranB, VlotnNCE AND SlawRy rN PRBnrsroRy
possible for these two cases given the state of
preservation of the cranial regions in question. The
results of Mollison's examination (1936) contain
numerous anomalies. The large group of defects that for
him appeared to be probable slash wounds can be
identified &s, for example, unmistakable post-mortem
damage caused by taphonomic processes.
The group of individuals with definite slash wounds is
made up of two children in the age range 'infant l' (Ofnet
1 and 30) and four adults in the age bands 'young adult'
(Ofnet lI,2I and24) and 'mature adult' (Ofnet 2;Table
3). The comparison of age and sex of the individuals
with definite slash wounds indicates that it is adult men
above all who exhibit most skull injuries. The skulls of
individuals 2 and 21 (Fig. 3) show a total of 11 slash
wounds. In no case can any signs of the healing process
be identified on the fracture edges, which demonstrates
that there was an immediately fatal outcome to the
wounds through injury to the brain, haemorrhage or
cerebral oedema. For two individuals (Ofuet 2 and 24),
however, traces can be distinguished of old skull injuries
that did not perforate the cranial vault.
eltbrly(m)
older mature (m)
olderm*rc(t)
matune (m)
mahre(0
young ad (m)
yotrsd(f)
jw(m)
jw(0
inf ll (D
inf l(irdet)
inf I (0
neo (0
E antemortem skull
injuries
I number of individuals
0246810
T,lBr,n 3. Age and sex of individuals with ante-mortem
skull injuries.
Frcunn 3. Ante-mortem skull injuries on the os frontale of
Individual2l from Grosser Ofnet.
The location of 64% of alI fatal skull injuries in the area
of the back of the head (Fig. a) enables us to infer a
situation involving a surprise attack, as can be shown for
the Bandkeramik mass grave at Talheim (Wahl and
König 1987: 184). Only for the two adult men who
exhibit the highest number of fatal skull injuries can an
attack from more than one direction be calculated on the
basis of the location of their wounds. All the remaining
individuals suffered a single fatal injury to the back of the
skull (Fig. s).
FIcunn 4. The location of injuries on the skulls from
Grosser Ofrret.
Frcunr 5. Ante-mortem slash wound on the os occipitale of
Individual 1l from Grosser Ofrret.
70
Jönc ORscnIBpt: THB I{EAD BURIALS FRoM OrNer cAVE: AN EXAMpLE oF wARLIKE coNFLICT IN THE MESoLITHTc
rloatlch
rr lDl I ch
lntrar
latrrr ltrlrr Scbürltrrrm
vrhrrcbr lnl lehtr tghLtltnrrr
Frcunr 6. Spatial distribution of the individuals with ante-mortem skull injuries (after Schmidt l9l2: table XIV).
4
t
I
A
A
The location within the skull clusters of the individuals
with fatal slash wounds reveals that five such individuals
were deposited on the left edge of the larger skull cluster
(Fig. 6). From this positioning, it is probable that these
heads were deposited together and that consequently a
single depositional event becomes comprehensible.
The clearly discernible contours that the weapons have
left behind on the crania are consistent only with the use
of a chopper-like instrument as the death-dealing weapon.
The stratigraphically certain existence of axes in the
Early Mesolithic of southwest Germany is already known
from two finds of flat axes similar in form to antler axes
from the open site of Rottenburg Siebenlinden (Hahn and
Kind l99L:21-8, fig. 5; Hahn et al. 1993:43-5, figs 1l-
l2). The new find of a flake from an amphibolite stone
axe from the same findspot confirms the existence of
polished stone axes at this time (Kind 2001). For the
Late Mesolithic, examples of polished stone axes come
from the Falkenstein cave (Peters 1935: pl. III.7) and the
as yet unpublished excavation by W. Taute in the
Jägerhaus cave (layer 7, in the form of two fragments of
stone axes; Taute l97l: 97, pls 15, 19-20; Oeschger and
Taute 1980). Furthermore, the richly equipped Late
Mesolithic grave of a woman with an infant from Bad
Dürrenberg yielded evidence for the existence of polished
flat axes for the early Late Mesolithic of middle Germany
(Geupel 1977; Hedges et al. 1992: 345-6; Orschiedt
1999:126-30).
The motivations for warlike behaviour in the Mesolithic
are not easy to determine. Moreover a complete
reconstruction of events in the case of the Ofrret skulls
cannot be accomplished since the postcranial skeleton
was not buried with the skull. It is, however, conceivable
that there were wounds from cutting weapons or from
projectile points, as can be substantiated in other
examples (Vencl I99l Wahl and König 1987).
Ethnographic research shows intra- and interethnic
conflict occurs more rarely amongst hunter-gatherer
groups than in sedentary populations (Schmidt 1993).
Conflict within the group seldom occurs among hunter-
gatherers and has a fatal outcome in very few cases. It
cannot be ruled out that the death of six individuals from
Grosser Ofrret is the rare result of a conflict over
resources between two groups.
Deposition of heads as a burial rite in the Late
Mesolithic
The dating of the find from Grosser Ofnet to the Late
Mesolithic through Cta analysis allows us to identifu a
specific, tangible grave site involving head-burial in
southern Germany (Orschiedt 1998; 1999: 151). What
needs to be highlighted here are the painstaking
deposition of heads, the evidence of anatomically
informed decapitation, the use of red ochre and the
provision of grave goods. Although an anomaly remains
with regard to the occrurence of ante-mortem cranial
injuries in the skull deposits from Ofnet and on the three
contemporaneous skulls from Hohlenstein-Stadel (ibid.
1998; 1999: 131-51), it is not possible to interpret the
find from the Ofiret cave as evidence of a Mesolithic
7l
Jönc ORscHrBnt: TUB I{EAD BURIALS FRoM OrNer cAVE: AN EXAMpLE oF wARLTKE coNFLICT IN THE MEsoLITHTc
rloallch
rr lDl I ch
lntrar
latrrr ltrltr $cbürltrrrm
vrhrrcbr lnl lehtr tghLtltnnr
Frcunr 6. Spatial distribution of the individuals with ante-mortem skull injuries (after Schmidt l9l2: table XIV).
I
t
I
A
A
The location within the skull clusters of the individuals
with fatal slash wounds reveals that five such individuals
were deposited on the left edge of the larger skull cluster
(Fig. 6). From this positioning, it is probable that these
heads were deposited together and that consequently a
single depositional event becomes comprehensible.
The clearly discernible contours that the weapons have
left behind on the crania are consistent only with the use
of a chopper-like instrument as the death-dealing weapon.
The stratigraphically certain existence of axes in the
Early Mesolithic of southwest Germany is already known
from two finds of flat axes similar in form to antler axes
from the open site of Rottenburg Siebenlinden (Hahn and
Kind l99L:21-8, fig. 5; Hahn et al. 1993:43-5, figs 1l-
l2). The new find of a flake from an amphibolite stone
axe from the same findspot confirms the existence of
polished stone axes at this time (Kind 2001). For the
Late Mesolithic, examples of polished stone axes come
from the Falkenstein cave (Peters 1935: pl. III.7) and the
as yet unpublished excavation by W. Taute in the
Jägerhaus cave (layer 7, in the form of two fragments of
stone axes; Taute l97l:97, pls 15, 19-20; Oeschger and
Taute 1980). Furthermore, the richly equipped Late
Mesolithic grave of a woman with an infant from Bad
Dürrenberg yielded evidence for the existence of polished
flat axes for the early Late Mesolithic of middle Germany
(Geupel 1977; Hedges et al. 1992: 345-6; Orschiedt
1999:126-30).
The motivations for warlike behaviour in the Mesolithic
are not easy to determine. Moreover a complete
reconstruction of events in the case of the Ofrret skulls
cannot be accomplished since the postcranial skeleton
was not buried with the skull. It is, however, conceivable
that there were wounds from cutting weapons or from
projectile points, as can be substantiated in other
examples (Vencl I99l Wahl and König 1987).
Ethnographic research shows intra- and interethnic
conflict occurs more rarely amongst hunter-gatherer
groups than in sedentary populations (Schmidt 1993).
Conflict within the group seldom occurs among hunter-
gatherers and has a fatal outcome in very few cases. It
cannot be ruled out that the death of six individuals from
Grosser Ofrret is the rare result of a conflict over
resources between two groups.
Deposition of heads as a burial rite in the Late
Mesolithic
The dating of the find from Grosser Ofnet to the Late
Mesolithic through Cta analysis allows us to identifu a
specific, tangible grave site involving head-burial in
southern Germany (Orschiedt 1998; 1999: 151). What
needs to be highlighted here are the painstaking
deposition of heads, the evidence of anatomically
informed decapitation, the use of red ochre and the
provision of grave goods. Although an anomaly remains
with regard to the occrurence of ante-mortem cranial
injuries in the skull deposits from Ofnet and on the three
contemporaneous skulls from Hohlenstein-Stadel (ibid.
1998; 1999: 131-51), it is not possible to interpret the
find from the Ofiret cave as evidence of a Mesolithic
71
WanranB, VroreNCE AND SLevgRy rN PRBrusroRy
massacre (Frayer 1997: 212) given the absence of traces
of injury on the remaining skulls.
As another example of the custom of head-burial, we can
turn to the find of a young adult male's skull, dating to
the same period but not yet dated by Cto, from the
Hexenktiche ('Witches' Kitchen') at Kaufertsberg near
Lierheim (Kr. Nördlingen). This was discovered in 1913
under similar circumstances to the head-burials at Grosser
Ofnet and Hohlenstein-Stadel (Birkner 1915:125). This
skull was likewise found with the mandible and the first
two cervical vertebrae still articulated. Although the
stratigraphic position of this find has frequently been
discussed (Naber 1974: 79; Kaulich 1983: 29-97;
Schröter 1983: 99-101), a Mesolithic classification of the
find is likely. On neither the find from Kaufertsberg nor
the find from Mannlefelsen at Oberlarg in Alsace are
there any discernable ante-mortem skull injuries or cut-
marks on the cervical vertebrae. An intentional deposit
of the find from Oberlarg is likewise safely assigned to
the Mesolithic on the grounds of the find's circumstances
(Thövenin 1980: 12, frg. 8). With this result, the proven
practice of head-burial in southern Germany during the
Late Mesolithic can also be understood to have occurred
in Alsace.
From the find of the head-burials from Grosser Ofnet and
other similar results, we can prove in consequence not
only the existence of a specific burial rite in southern
Germany during the Late Mesolithic but also evidence for
warlike activity during this period.
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... So the question arises, what happened to most of the deceased? There is no doubt that there must have been other forms of disposal and other places where this happened (Orschiedt 2005). Unfortunately, the evidence for these kinds of practices is far more difficult to see and to reconstruct. ...
... The fact that some of the human remains from the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic show signs of human manipulation, such as cut-marks, implies a complex behaviour towards the dead. However, these kinds of rather obvious manipulations have been seen in the past as evidence of cannibalism which has controversially been discussed (Orschiedt 1999aOrschiedt , 2005). Most of the Palaeolithic human remains, either primary burials or supposed secondary burials or isolated bones, are from cave sites and rock shelters (Fig. 15.1). ...
... One of the reasons for this is certainly the excellent preservation in these places. Nevertheless, the lack of primary burials in Central Europe dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic is striking compared to other areas (Orschiedt 2005). The fact that mostFigure 15.1: Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites mentioned in the text. ...
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Burials within caves are common phenomena in European prehistory. Nevertheless, there are periods and regions where this kind of burial is absent or uncommon. Human remains within cave sediments have been found frequently during excavations. According to research traditions in some Central European regions these skeletons or isolated human remains were not interpreted as burials but as ritual human offerings and/or even remains of cannibalistic feasts. This kind of interpretation is usually favoured for post-Mesolithic periods when other forms of burials (e.g. in cemeteries) are more common. The fact that postglacial human remains from caves are sometimes overlooked by researchers leads to the fact that several of these remains are now being lost or have never been studied in detail. This paper analyses the appearance of burials within caves through time and tries to find evidence for cave burials in Central Europe during the Neolithic as well as the Bronze and Iron Ages.
... unequivocally indicates that these were fleshed heads when deposited, presumably not long after removal from the body, though this last aspect is open to further discussion: Ian Armit (2006) has suggested that the heads may have been dried and curated. The presence of soft tissue is further confirmed by the presence of cutmarks on the vertebrae (Frayer 1997; Orschiedt 1998 Orschiedt , 2002b Orschiedt , 2005 Wahl & Haidle 2003). Secondly, there is considerable evidence for trauma on the crania. ...
... The single adult male skull at Mannlefelsen exhibits both cutmarks and perimortem injuries according to a recent re-analysis (Boulestin & HenriGambier 2012). No injuries have been reported for the young adult male skull from Kaufertsberg (Orschiedt 2005), though of course this need not mean that this individual did not also die violently. In terms of the number of individuals involved, Ofnet clearly stands out from the other sites. ...
... A number of the Ofnet skulls were covered with red ochre and abundant red deer and shell bead ornamentation . Many have commented on the site's unusual demography (Orschiedt 2002bOrschiedt , 2005 Peter-Röcher 2002 ), which seems to indicate an overrepresentation of children and a paucity of adult males relative to a living community: of the 14 or 15 adults in the two pits, nine or ten are female and five are male (Frayer 1997; Orschiedt 2002b Orschiedt , 2005 ). Both points are debatable. ...
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While long known as a feature of the Near Eastern Neolithic, there is growing evidence for the special treatment of the human head in Mesolithic Europe. This takes the form of secondary deposition of crania and mandibles, often in unusual contexts, including as ‘grave goods’ with other burials; cutmarks suggesting decapitation, scalping and defleshing; and the deposition of fleshed heads in pits, as well as, most recently, on stakes in shallow pools. After reviewing this evidence, discussion turns to its interpretation. Possible links with the ‘ancestors’ are explored, and ethnographic support for their importance among hunter-gatherers is reviewed. If accepted, there may be implications for the expression of territoriality in the Mesolithic. The blurring of the lines between revered ancestor and enemy when interpreting the treatment of human heads is emphasised.
... There are several examples of selective deposition of human remains, especially skulls (Schulting 2015). The most controversial site is Ofnet Cave in Germany, where two deposits of skulls corresponding to 35 individuals of both sexes and all ages were found, with clear evidence of perimortem wounds and cut marks (Frayer 1997;Hofmann 2005;Orschiedt 2005). Unlike the proposed Neolithic massacres, the Ofnet skulls were deposited carefully, all facing west, covered with ochre and bearing ornaments made of animal teeth. ...
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The long-standing debate over the origins of violence has resurfaced over the last two decades. There has been a proliferation of studies on violence, from both cross-cultural and ethnographic and prehistoric perspectives, based on a reading of archaeological and bioarchaeological records in a variety of territories and chronologies. The vast body of osteoarchaeological and architectural evidence reflects the presence of interpersonal violence among the first farmer groups throughout Europe, and, even earlier, between hunter-gatherer societies of the Mesolithic. The studies in Beyond War present the necessity of rethinking the concept of “violence” in archaeology. This overcomes the old conception that limits violence to its most evident expressions in war and intra- or extra-group conflict, opening up the debate on violence, which allows the advancement of knowledge of the social life and organization of prehistoric societies. Determining archaeological indicators to identify violent practices and to analyse their origin and causes is fundamental here, and represents the only way to find out when and under what historical conditions prehistoric societies began to organize themselves by exercising structural violence. http://www.cambridgescholars.com/beyond-war
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The question of the presence of organized violence in the Neolithic settlements in Middle East has been debated. This paper presents possible examples of organized violence from the Neolithic period, representing early examples of settlements in Anatolia, to the Early Bronze Age, which provides the early instances of central authority. Most injuries detected among Neolithic populations in Anatolia have been associated with daily activities. Although individual examples of interpersonal violence exist among Neolithic and Chalcolithic populations in Anatolia, but they are far from representing organized violence. On the other hand the Early Bronze Age populations present clear evidence of perimortem wounds, mass burials, high frequency of cranial fractures, walls surrounding cities, and metal weapons in Anatolia. This suggests an increased evidence of organized violence in EBA Anatolia. Based on bioarchaeological data, it is concluded that violence in these settlements resulted from one or more ecological and social factors. However, each settlement might have peculiar reason for fighting.
Article
Trauma is among the most important sources of data providing information related to systematic violence, battles and massacres among ancient populations. In this study, a mass grave from Titriş Höyük in the Southeast Anatolia was examined in terms of cranial traumas. Skeletal remains of minimum 19 individuals were placed on a plaster basin as a secondary interment. The frequency of cranial trauma was 81.3% among 16 available adult crania. The fact that the perimortem traumas were observed on both sex groups and the presence of two children and an infant on the basin suggest the possibility of these individuals being subjected to an attack or a massacre. It has been determined that the frequency of traumas in the common burials increased more than twofold from Early-Mid EBA (6.7%) to Late EBA (14.3%). While all of the injuries observed in Early-Mid EBA were in the form of healed depressed trauma, penetrated traumas were also encountered in Late EBA. The increased frequency of cranial trauma with unusual interment on a plaster basin indicated that a social stress might have taken place in Titriş Höyük. It is concluded that the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, the deterioration of the trade-based economy and resource stress might have been possible factors that played a role in the excessive violence, or a massacre in Titriş Höyük. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
The present list contains 14 G dates from archaeologic samples attributed to the European Mesolithic period from the typology of associated finds, especially microliths. Of these samples, 14 are from Germany and 6 from France.
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Frakturen, Luxationen, B egl eitv erletzungen
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Brückner, H. and Hinze, M. 1991. Frakturen, Luxationen, B egl eitv erletzungen. Berlin.
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