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Osteological evidence of violence during the formation of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt in the Bronze Age

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This paper presents the analyses of skeletal remains of the fifth century BC nomads from Jinggouzi Cemetery on the frontier of northern China. The mortality and trauma prevalence of the population are investigated with two projectile injuries with arrowhead embedded on the ilium and vertebra analyzed in detail. The demographic and traumatic profiles show a high risk of mortality at a young age. Macroscopic and microscopic observations on the projectile injuries show no signs of healing, which indicate that they were perimortem trauma and probably the cause of death. Radiography and computed tomography reconstruction provides detailed information about the shape of the arrowhead and the mechanism of the injuries. The bronze arrowheads can be classified as a tri-winged socketed arrowhead and both of the injuries could be not fatal. Based on the shape of the arrowheads and the cultural period, the injured individuals may represent the nomadic invader to the region who fought with locals. During the Late Bronze Age in northern Asia, the immigration due to the climatic changes and demographic pressures may be causally linked to the social conflict in this region and accelerated the formation of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt which initiated the beginning of a new era in Chinese history. The analysis of the skeletal remains from Jinggouzi Cemetery enriches the understanding of the process of integration in northern China and cumulatively provides valuable evidence for the reconstruction of the history of east Eurasia.
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1 23
Archaeological and Anthropological
Sciences
ISSN 1866-9557
Volume 11
Number 12
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2019)
11:6689-6704
DOI 10.1007/s12520-019-00934-0
Osteological evidence of violence during the
formation of the Chinese northern nomadic
cultural belt in the Bronze Age
Qun Zhang, Xuezhou Li, Qian Wang,
Hui-Yuan Yeh, Hong Zhu, Yanguo Qin
& Quanchao Zhang
1 23
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Osteological evidence of violence during the formation
of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt in the Bronze Age
Qun Zhang
1,2
&Xuezhou Li
3
&Qian Wang
4
&Hui-Yuan Yeh
2
&Hong Zhu
1
&Yanguo Qin
5
&Quanchao Zhang
1
Received: 6 December 2018 /Accepted: 28 August 2019
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019
Abstract
This paper presents the analyses of skeletal remains of the fifth century BC nomads from Jinggouzi Cemetery on the frontier of
northern China. The mortality and trauma prevalence of the population are investigated with two projectile injuries with
arrowhead embedded on the ilium and vertebra analyzed in detail. The demographic and traumatic profiles show a high risk
of mortality at a young age. Macroscopic and microscopic observations on the projectile injuries show no signs of healing, which
indicate that they were perimortem trauma and probably the cause of death. Radiography and computed tomography reconstruc-
tion provides detailed information about the shape of the arrowhead and the mechanism of the injuries. The bronze arrowheads
can be classified as a tri-winged socketed arrowhead and both of the injuries could be not fatal. Based on the shape of the
arrowheads and the cultural period, the injured individuals may represent the nomadic invader to the region who fought with
locals. During the Late Bronze Age in northern Asia, the immigration due to the climatic changes and demographic pressures
may be causally linked to the social conflict in this region and accelerated the formation of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural
belt which initiated the beginning of a new era in Chinese history. The analysis of the skeletal remains from Jinggouzi Cemetery
enriches the understanding of the process of integration in northern China and cumulatively provides valuable evidence for the
reconstruction of the history of east Eurasia.
Keywords Arrowhead injury .Computed tomography .Northern China .Nomadic cultural belt .Conflict .Bronze Age
Introduction
The northern China frontier is an important geographical unit
in Chinese history, which covers the eastern section of the
Eurasia steppes. During the Bronze Age, agricultural
civilizations developed in the south-central Eurasia, while cul-
tures of the North remained nomadic. The ancient northern
Chinese frontier was the boundary between these two cultural
groups, several nomadic ethnic groups, such as the Huns, the
Sushen (transliterated from Chinese textual record), and the
Donghu (transliterated from Chinese textual record) who lived
in this area and have always played important roles throughout
Chinesehistory.DuringtheEasternZhouPeriod(770
256 BCE), due to climatic changes, the shrinking of natural
resources and the increase of demographic pressure led to
southbound immigration of the northern nomads along with
their nomadic culture. Meanwhile, with the improvement of
agricultural technology and productivity in the Central Plains
and the increase of population, the northern principalities of
the central regime expanded their territories to the north (Ge
et al. 1993). As a result, the northern principalities of the
central regime, such as Zhao, Qin, and Yan, built the Great
Wall along their northern frontier to defend themselves against
the invasions of these nomadic populations. This region is
termed the ancient Great Wall region and has been defined
as a zone of interaction between politically and economically
*Yanguo Qin
qinyanguo0987@gmail.com
*Quanchao Zhang
anthropology239@163.com
1
School of Archaeology, Jilin University, 2699 Qianjin Ave,
Changchun 130012, Jilin, China
2
School of Humanities, Nanyang Technological University, 48
Nanyang Ave, Singapore 639818, Singapore
3
Department of Orthopedics, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University,
107 Wenhua West Road, Jinan 250012, Shandong, China
4
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University College
of Dentistry, 3302 Gaston Ave, Dallas, TX 75246, USA
5
Department of Orthopedics, The Second Hospital of Jilin University,
218 Ziqiang St., Changchun 130041, Jilin, China
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-019-00934-0
/Published online: 21 October 2019
(2019) 11:66896704
Author's personal copy
opposing cultures: nomadic pastoralists and sedentary
Chinese agriculturalists (Lattimore 1940; Davis-Kimball
et al. 1995; Cosmo and Wyatt 2003; Cosmo 2004; Zheng
2004; Yang 2004). The mixture of these different cultures in
this region leads to the formation of the Chinese northern
nomadic cultural belt which acts as a vital cultural unit differ-
ent from the main Central Plains civilization throughout the
Chinese history.
Among the nomadic ethnic groups who lived in this region,
Donghu are described as nomad warriors who had existed
since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16001046 BCE) and thrived
during the Zhou Dynasty (1046256 BCE). Donghu invaded
the frontiers of principalities of the central regime, such as the
Yan and the Zhao to the south during the Warring States
Period in Chinese history (Barfield 2006), and had a signifi-
cant influence on the process of Chinese history. They were
then defeated by the Huns in 206 BC and then disappeared in
the historical records after having existed for about 1300 years.
The survivors scattered and divided into some secondary
tribes, such as the Wuhuan (transliterated from Chinese textu-
al record) and the Xianbei (transliterated from Chinese textual
record)the latter of which were the origins of the Khitan and
the Mongols.
Currently, there are very few archaeological materials and
written records in this region, limiting our understanding of the
population history in this region. Therefore, the reconstruction of
the process of migration and integration of the different popula-
tions in this region can benefit from a multidisciplinary compre-
hensive research. Through analyzing the skeletal remains
unearthed from a suspected Donghu cemetery, the aim of this
study is to reveal the demographic structure, trauma prevalence,
and mortality risk of this vital ancient population for the recon-
struction of the population history from the osteological perspec-
tive and, finally, gain a better understanding of the population
integration process and pattern during the formation of the
Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt.
Material and methods
The description of the Jinggouzi Cemetery
The Jinggouzi Cemetery in Linxi County, Chifeng City, Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region, in northern China (Fig. 1), is
located on the north bank of the Xar Moron River and south to
the extension of the Greater Khingan Mountains. The surviving
spring near the cemetery indicated that the natural environment
in this area was suitable for human living. Between 2002 and
2003, with the permission of the State Administration for
Cultural Heritage, 58 nomad tombs were excavated by the
Research Center for Chinese Frontier Archaeology of Jilin
University. According to the clear archaeological strata, and sim-
ilar tomb structure and funerary styles, this cemetery is
considered as a contemporary cemetery designed and construct-
ed intentionally in a short period. After being contextualized
under the large archaeological chronological framework of the
same region, the funerary styles indicate that the estimated age of
this cemetery is approximately 550 BCE, which is supported by
the radiocarbon dating of a charcoal sample from one of the
tombs (tomb 57) as 2485 ± 45 BP (Wang et al. 2010). A total
of 153 individuals were identified among all the 58 tombs, and
more than half of the tombs contained multiple individuals
(58.6%), in which males, females, and subadults appear mixed
and buried at the same time. Besides, although the tombs were
thought to be primary interments, almost all of the tombs
(92.7%) were intruded and destroyed shortly after they were
buried. The human remains especially the torso parts were se-
verely disturbed and distributed on the bottom, indicating early
robbery activities (Wang et al. 2010).
The burial objects consisted of bone artifacts, pottery, and
bronze wares, among which the fine arrowheads made of deer
antler and rough bronze ornaments accounted for the vast
majority. Two bronze daggers and nine bronze arrowheads
were the only bronze weapons found in this cemetery (Wang
et al. 2010). Almost every tomb had livestock skeletons; the
main species were classified as horse (Equus caballus,
42.86%), cattle (Bos taurus, 22.45%), and sheep (Ovis aries,
21.43%), and there were other animals like donkey (Equus
asinus) and canine (Canis familiaris) as well. No agricultural
tools or swine bones were found in the cemetery, which indi-
cates that the population did not live an agrarian life (Zheng
2004). Multidisciplinary studies indicate that the exotic cul-
tural elements regarding the manner of burial, pottery styles,
ornaments, and weapons in Jinggouzi Cemetery are different
from the other local archaeological cultures of its age, show-
ing more similarities to elements from the tombs found in
Baikal region and northern Asia (Wu 2005; Lin 2003;Cui
2007). Besides, the physical anthropological and ancient ge-
netic studies indicate that the Jinggouzi population showed
characteristic traits of northern Asians, distinguishable from
the local eastern Asians, while having more genetic similari-
ties with northern nomadic populations (Zhu 2015; Zhu and
Zhang, 2007;Wangetal.2012). All these demonstrate that the
Jinggouzi population made an abrupt appearance in this re-
gion and were probably to be the intrusive nomads that mi-
grated from a region further north.
The osteological materials from Jinggouzi Cemetery
The specimens of this study were the skeletal remains from all
the identified 153 individuals. Among them, two bronze ar-
rowhead projectile injuries on the right ilium and the first
lumbar vertebra, respectively, from two individuals were ana-
lyzed in detail. The sample coded as 02JLM46:B has been
recorded previously but has not been analysed (Eng and
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Zhang 2013), and the one coded as 02LJM47:B was newly
found among the collections.
Tomb 02LJM46 and tomb 02LJM47were both vertical pits
in shape and did not show any difference from the other
tombs. The burial objects were as common as in the other
tomb, consisting of pottery jar, several small bronze orna-
ments, tools, antler arrowheads, and livestock bones except
for the bronze arrowheads. Both the two tombs contained
multiple individuals which were buried at the same time.
Tomb 02LJM46 contained three young males and one child,
and tomb 02LJM47 contained one young male, one young
female, one child, and an adult of unknown sex. Except for
the two individuals with projectile injury, the other individuals
showed no traumatic evidence on their skeletal remains. The
skeletal remains of the two individuals were incomplete and
badly disturbed. The skeletal remains of 02LJM46:B
consisted of cranium, clavicles, parts of vertebrae and ribs,
pelvis, femora, and left fibula; the skeletal remains of
02LJM47:B consisted of cranium, clavicles, scapulae, verte-
brae, ribs, upper limbs, pelvis, femora, and tibiae. 02LJM46:B
is a male who died at the age of approximately 20 years old
and 02LJM47:B is a female who died at the age of approxi-
mately 2530 years old (Wang et al. 2010).
Comparative contemporaneous populations in this
region
The demographic profiles of six contemporaneous populations in
this region were selected for comparison. These populations
lived in the eastern and middle section of the ancient Great
Wall region during the Eastern Zhou Period (770256 BCE).
Archaeological pieces of evidence show that the Maoqinggou
Cemetery, the Yinniugou Cemetery, and the Shuiquan
Cemetery were multicultural cemeteries, in which the different
funerary styles were presented within the same cemetery (Sun
2017;Chen2008), while the Xindianzi Cemetery and
Guoxianyaozi Cemetery were single culture burials (Chen
2008; Zhang 2010). All these populations lived with a mixed
subsistence pattern, while herding played an important role in
their life. Exceptionally, the Dashanqian Site contained a ceme-
tery and house remains, which belonged to a farming population
with secondary lifestyle (Rohn and Barnes 2003).
Fig. 1 Geographic location of the Jinggouzi Cemetery. The ancient Great Wall region is marked with green lines
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Methods
The sex and age determinations of the individuals were
derived from the on-site identification results in the orig-
inal report (Wang et al. 2010). The mortality of the
Jinggouzi population was calculated in each age cohort
and the demographic profiles of the other six contempo-
raneous populations in this region were cited for compar-
ison. The osteological trauma of the whole population was
diagnosed referring to Ortners(2003) descriptions, and
the trauma prevalence was calculated through individual
observation. The skeletal traumatic specimens with arrow-
head embedded were examined using various scientific
techniques. Macroscopic observation focused on the
shape, dimensions, location, and state of the trauma, while
microscopic observation focused on the edges on the mar-
gin of the wound, attempting to detect the extent of
healing, if any. The detail of the osteological wound on
ilium was observed directly using a three-dimensional
(3D) deep-field microscope (VHX-2000 series, Keyence,
Japan). Various radiological methodsX-ray (DR
KONICA-150) examination and computed tomography
(CT) (Philips, Brilliance CT; GE Discovery High
Definition 750 CT scanner) scanwere used to obtain
the bone radiopacity for new bone differentiating and to
ascertain the internal situation of the trauma. Two sets of
the modern human CT data were collected from the data-
base of the hospital where the corresponding author is
affiliated with under informed consent. 3D reconstruction
of the specimens was utilized and superimposed to the
normal ilium 3D model to evaluate the relative locations
of the arrowheads and the projectile routes and it was
further evaluated whether the injury was suffered before
death (antemortem), around the time of death
(perimortem), or after death (postmortem) (Cattaneo
2007; Lovell 1997;Maples1986;Sauer1998). To analyze
the arrowheads in a 3D model and further measure their
size, we separated the arrowheads from the surrounding
bones based on the different grayscale values between
the bronze arrowhead and bone tissue. Statistical analyses
were performed using SPSS Statistics 20 software (IBM
Corporation, Armonk, NY, USA) and Excel 2010
(Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA).
Results
The mortality of the Jinggouzi population
The demographic pattern of the Jinggouzi population was
calculated and compared with the other populations as shown
in Table 1and Fig. 2(Wang et al. 2010; Tian 2007). The
demographic age profile of the Jinggouzi population deviates
strongly from that of the comparative populations under study.
The mortality of a subadult is as much as 45.1%, accounting
for the largest proportion of the entire population. The mortal-
ity in young adult period and middle adult A period is 19 and
19.6%, respectively. The mortality in middle adult B period is
as low as 3.3%, and no individual survived into old adult age.
Compared with other contemporaneous populations in this
region, the peak mortality in the other populations are middle
adult B, while the proportion of subadults in the Jinggouzi
population is extremely high, followed by young and middle
adults, demonstrating that the age of death of the entire pop-
ulation is very young.
Table 1 Demographic statistics of the populations in the ancient Great Wall region during the late Bronze Age. The figure represents the number of
individuals, and the percentage represents the proportion
Location Subadult
(< 14)
Youn g adu lt
(1523)
Middle adult
A(2435)
Middle adult
B(3655)
Old adult
(> 55)
Adult
(> 18)
Jinggouzi (n= 153) East section 69
45.1%
29
19.0%
30
19.6%
5
3.3%
0
0.0%
20
13.0%
Maoqinggou (n= 26) Middle section 0
0.0%
5
19.2%
1
3.8%
15
57.7%
5
19.2%
0
0.0%
Yinniugou (n= 23) Middle section 1
4.4%
3
13.0%
3
13.0%
13
56.5%
3
13.0%
0
0.0%
Guoxianyaozi (n= 20) Middle section 3
15.0%
3
15.0%
4
20.0%
6
30.0%
0
0.0%
4
20.0%
Shuiquan (n= 91) Middle section 9
9.9%
12
13.2%
33
36.3%
30
33.0%
0
0.0%
7
7.7%
Dashanqian (n= 34) East section 7
20.6%
5
14.7%
5
14.7%
15
44.1%
1
3.0%
1
3.0%
Xindianzi (n= 43) Middle section 4
9.3%
7
16.3%
13
30.2%
12
27.9%
0
0.0%
7
16.3%
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Trauma prevalence in the Jinggouzi population
The basic trauma prevalence of the Jinggouzi population
provides us a direct evidence for the understanding of the
prehistoric social life in the site. Table 2shows the de-
tails of the individual trauma in the population. A total of
17 individuals in this population can be observed with
trauma among the 153 individuals, including 6 males,
10 females, and a subadult with a blunt trauma to the
head. In terms of prevalence, among the individuals de-
termined as male, 14.6% showed trauma; among individ-
uals determined as female, 35.7% were injured. The
Fig. 2 Mortality distribution of
the samples in the ancient Great
Wal l re gio n
Table 2 Description of the
individuals with trauma in the
Jinggouzi population
Label Sex Age Location Condition
M3:A Male 25 Right ulna fracture Healed
Right tibia fracture Healed
M15 Male > 18 Left tibia fracture Healed
Left fibula fracture Healed
Left ulna fracture Healed
M46:B Male 22 Right ilium projectile trauma Unhealed
M49:A Male 1820 Left humerus fracture Healed
M56:A Male 22 Right femur fracture Healed
M58:A Male 30 Right rib fracture Healed
M4 Female 35 Right tibia fracture Healed
M11:A Female 25 Left ulna fracture Healed
M17:B Female 3035 Right parietal sharp force trauma Healed
M18 Female 2025 Left frontal sharp force trauma Healed
M19:A Female 2530 Right femur fracture Healed
M22:B Female 25 Left parietal blunt force trauma Healed
Left parietal blunt force trauma Healed
Left parietal blunt force trauma Healed
M30:A Female 25 Left femur and tibia fracture Healed
M31:B Female 2530 Parietal and occipital sharp force trauma Unhealed
M36:A Female > 18 Left rib fracture Healed
M47:B Female 2530 Left parietal blunt force trauma Healed
Lumbar vertebra projectile trauma Unhealed
M12:D Unknown 25 Right parietal blunt force trauma Unhealed
The bone side ofindividual M4 is contrary to the description in Eng and Zhang (2013). It was double checked and
corrected in the present study. The individual labels are in accordance to the original records
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females had a significantly higher trauma prevalence than
males (chi-square test: X=4.151, df =1, P=0.042)
(Table 3).
Most of the males with trauma died at the young adult and
middle adult A phases. However, among females, the traumat-
ic rate of individuals in the middle age A period reaches 80%.
In terms of the type and location of the trauma, most of the
injured males had traumas on long bones except one in the
ilium and one in the rib. Among females, cranial trauma and
long bone fractures are the most frequent type in addition to
one vertebral projectile injury and one rib fracture, and even
some individuals suffered from multiple traumas. Overall, not
only is the individual trauma rate higher in females, but the
cranial trauma is also more common in females.
Macroscopic and microscopic analyses
of the projectile trauma specimens
The projectile trauma of 02LJM46:B is located on the right
ilium. A bronze arrowhead is observed embedded into the
anterior side of the right ilium immediately between the ante-
rior superior iliac spine and the anterior inferior iliac spine
(Fig. 3). The edges of the wound are 27.4 mm from the auric-
ular surface and 73.6 mm from the crista iliaca. The embedded
arrowhead is atan oblique angle to the surface of the ilium and
has entered the ilium directly in an anteriorposterior direc-
tion, descending from the right to slightly left. The wound
shows a peeling at the mesial edge, and the cortical bone
and trabecular are exposed around the wound. The fragment
lost at the mesial edge of the defect suggests that the sharp
force penetrated the ilium in a ventral-dorso direction, but not
completely perpendicular, with the trajectory relatively
oblique with respect to the ilium surface.
The projectile trauma from 02LJM47:B is found on the
vertebral column. The arrowhead is located between the
12th thoracic vertebra and the first lumbar vertebra with its
tip embedded in the lumbar vertebral body (Fig. 4). The ar-
rowhead has entered the vertebral body posterioranteriorly,
slightly downwards and slightly to the right. The left surface
of the spinous process of the 12th thoracic vertebra and the left
upper articular surface of the first lumbar vertebra are dam-
aged due to the projection, and the bronze stain can be ob-
served around the trauma. The bone defect and the spongy
bone are visible on the upper surface of the lumbar vertebral
body around the arrowhead. The two arrowheads outside the
Table 3 Statistics of the
prevalence of trauma by
individual in the Jinggouzi
population
Male Female Unknown Total
Obs./N% Obs./N%Obs./N%Obs./N%
Subadult (< 14) / / / / 1/69 1.5 1/69 1.5
Young adult (1523) 3/14 21.4 1/11 9.1 0/4 0 4/29 13.8
Middle adult A (2435) 2/15 13.3 8/10 80 0/5 0 10/30 33.3
Middle adult B (3655) 0/3 0 0/2 0 0/0 0 0/5 0
Old adult (> 55) 0/0 0 0/0 0 0/0 0 0/0 0
Adult (> 18) 1/9 11.1 1/5 20 0/6 0 2/20 10
Total 6/41 14.6 10/28 35.7 1/84 1.2 17/153 11.1
Note: Chi-square test: males vs. females, X= 4.151, df =1, P= 0.042. The females had significantly higher
frequency than males
Fig. 3 Macroscopic observation of the injury on the ilium of 02LJM46:B
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bone show a similar tri-winged shape with a hole on the axis
for installing a shaft. The wings of the arrowhead are sharp-
edged and well casted.
The microscopic observation of the ilium wound pro-
vides additional detailed information (Fig. 5). On the me-
sial side of the margin, an incised wound with bevelled
edges toward the great sciatic notch is observed, while the
cortical bone and trabecular bone are clearly exposed.
Additionally, on the superior side, a piece of cortical bone
is disengaged outward, while the margin of the wound is
sharp and distinct. After the examination of the details on
the traumatic margin, it is possible to identify a clearly
defined irregular traumatic incision around the outline of
the arrowhead from where it entered the ilium. It exhibits
no apparent healing signs normally observed postinjury,
such as tiny bony spurs or a smooth, rounded bone sur-
face. The sharp margins with visible trabecular around the
edges show no sign of bone healing, suggesting that the
individual died in a short time after the injury.
X-ray examination and CT analysis
From the X-ray (Fig. 6a), it can be observed that the arrow-
head on the ilium is embedded and the bone structure is uni-
form. There are no erosion or osteoporosis of the bone and no
callus formation around the arrowhead. The CT scans of the
Fig. 4 Macroscopic observation
of the injury on vertebrae of
02LJM47:B. Left: The 12th
thoracic vertebra and the first
lumbar vertebra in original
condition; right: the first lumbar
vertebra with arrowhead
embedded
Fig. 5 Microscopic observation
on the details of the injury on the
ilium. Upper: Medial edge view;
below: inferior edge view
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ilium and vertebra (Fig. 6b, c) show that the arrowheads did
not fully penetrate the ilium and vertebral body, and the bone
density around the arrowheads is homogeneous. No sign of
bone absorption and callus formation is observed.
With the CT DICOM data of the scanned specimens, the
3D models are reconstructed by Mimics 16.0 software. In the
model for the ilium injury, the main artery is also reconstruct-
ed (as shown in Fig. 7). The arrow did presumably not damage
the external iliac artery, and this result is conformed to the 2D
CT scan contours (Fig. 9). Therefore, this injury may not have
caused immediate death. In the model for the vertebral injury
(Fig. 7), the arrowhead projected into the vertebral body
through the back muscles and spinal canal and may not have
caused immediate death as well.
The 3D models of the arrowheads are reconstructed as
shown in Fig. 8, and the tri-winged arrowheadsshape is in
accordance with the classic style in this region, which was
casted and widely used by the local sedentary populations
(Shi 2006).
Clinical evaluation of the projectile injuries
Clinically, the injury on the ilium belongs to a penetrating
wound caused by a sharp arrowhead through the abdomi-
nalwall(Fig.9). The entrance is located in the right lower
quadrant, just medial to the anterior superior iliac spine of
the right ilium. The arrowhead penetrates the skin, the ex-
ternal oblique muscle, the internal oblique muscle, the
transverse oblique muscle, the transverse fascia, the parie-
tal peritoneum, the iliacus muscle, and the ilium. The im-
portant internal organs, such as the cecum or the ascending
colon, were very likely injured. This type of wound would
have resulted in devastating complications, most likely fa-
tal. To begin with, the penetrating injury would have led to
Fig. 6 The X-ray (a) and the CT scan image of the ilium (b) and vertebra (c)
Fig. 7 Reconstruction images of the ilium and vertebra superimposed to the modern model. The red parts are the original specimen
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bleeding, and the tissues would have been sore and swol-
len. A wound infection might have spread quickly from the
wounded skin and deep tissues in adjacent regions (cellu-
litis). Blood, fat debris, intestinal contents, and fluids
would have accumulated and remained undrained in the
lower abdominal and pelvic cavity, leading to continuing
infection through the vascular system (sepsis). Sepsis ar-
guably would have been the primary cause of death in an
age without antibiotics. In this case, this injury alone
would have led to sepsis within a couple of days, and death
would have happened as soon as 3 days thereafter (Zuev
et al. 2006). The open abdominal wound and injured
Fig. 8 The reconstructed arrowheads in the 3D model. aThe arrowhead from the ilium injury. bThe arrowhead from the vertebral injury
Fig. 9 Injury shown on the 2D
CT scan contours image (a
coronal plane, btransverse plane).
The red contours are the original
specimen
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iliacus muscle (the flexor of the thigh) would prevent the
inflicted person from moving around. The period from in-
jury to death probably lasted no more than a week.
Admittedly, other fatal injuries without involvement of
bones might exist yet could not be considered for the sce-
nario with confidence.
The injury on the vertebrae also belongs to a penetrating
wound with the entrance located on the lower back but is
clearer regarding the wound mechanism (Fig. 10). The arrow-
head penetrated the skin, the thoracolumbar fascia, the erector
spinae, the multifidus, and the interspinous ligament and fi-
nally reached the vertebral body. The spinal cord (lumbar
enlargement), the arachnoid mater, and the internal vertebral
venous plexus are definitely damaged. Clinically, the simple
spinal cord injury is rarely fatal. The symptoms of spinal cord
injury depend on the severity of the injury and the location of
the damage, including partial or complete loss of the sensory
function or limb control. Since the injury is located between
the 12th thoracic vertebra and the first lumbar vertebra, the
lumbar muscle strength could be generally weakened and the
lower limb could be paralyzed. The internal oblique, the lower
transversus abdominis, and the sphincters of the bladder and
rectal could not be controlled autonomously along with the
sensory dysfunction in the lower limbs, groin, haunch, and
perineum. The patellar reflex, Achilles tendon reflex, and
plantar reflex may have disappeared. Uncommonly, the cere-
brospinal fluid leakage due to spinal arachnoid damage can
cause cerebral palsy.
Fig. 10 Injury shown on the 2D
CT scan contour image (asagittal
plane, btransverse plane). The
red contours are the original
specimen
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Discussion
Analysis of the skeletal remains facilitates a better understand-
ing of the ancient society. Demography reflects the risk of
mortality and the trauma on the bones provides us with direct
evidence for analyzing the confrontation and violence through
this pivotal period in history. Based on previous research,
accidental injuries are generally related to the daily living,
while the intentional violence-related injuries reflect the con-
frontation to some extent (Jordana et al. 2009; Buzon and
Richman 2007; Larsen 1997; Lovell 1997; Walker 2001).
Considering trauma from the sociocultural perspective is es-
sential. The confrontation between the central regime and the
Eurasian Steppe nomads was the main theme of ancient
Chinese history. The traumatic sample discovered in the
northern frontier of ancient China reflects the interaction be-
tween pastoral and settled people, nomadic tribes (unsettled
pastoralist), and central states (principalities of the central
regime).
The risk of mortality among the Jinggouzi population
In medicine, trauma refers to an accidental or inflicted
injury caused by Bharsh contact with the environment^
(Stedman 1982). Osteological trauma can reflect the war-
fare and violence in the past human societies (Milner
1999;Novak2000;Walker2001; Redfern 2017). The
Jinggouzi population suffered an overall traumatic preva-
lence of 11.1% with a higher proportion in females. Most
of the traumas were antemortem and occurred on long
bones. Cranial traumas were more commonly found in
females. Previous studies have analyzed the high preva-
lence of cranial trauma among females and inferred that
this might be related to domestic violence, internal village
tensions, or intrapopulation conflict (Webb 1995;Martin
1997;Walker1997; Wilkinson 1997;Jackes2004). In the
Jinggouzi population, disadvantaged females and sub-
adults were speculated to have suffered high risk of at-
tack. Multiple cranial traumas were found on some female
individuals and the cranial blunt force trauma could be
observed even on a subadult at the age of 25 years old.
The tough survival condition could also be supported by
demographic data. Among the whole population, subadults
accounted for the largest proportion (45.1%), while the peak
mortality rates in adult male and female groups were between
15 and 35 years old; no individual lived into the old adult phase.
The age at death among the entire population is rather young. In
contrast to the other populations thatlivedinthisregionduring
the Bronze Age, the mortality of subadult in Jinggouzi is ex-
tremely high, while the proportion of the elder is low.
The gross morphology on the margins of the two projectile
injuries and the X-ray and CT images demonstrate no sign of the
new bone formation process, which strengthens the inference that
the wounds were perimortem (Berryman and Haun 1996;
Brothwell 1981; Kanz and Grossschmidt, 2005; Galloway
1999). The clinical consequences of these two projectile injuries
on the abdomen and lower back were serious, and these vital
regions are vulnerable and they are inferred to be targeted inten-
tionally. Although most of the other observed traumas were an-
temortem, considering the high mortality among the young, the
morphological features of the perimortem injury on the torso, and
the sharp bronze arrowheads, it allows us to hypothesize that at
least these deadly injuries were received during an interpopula-
tion conflict.
Currently, a comparative framework of the trauma prevalence
among the populations in the ancient Great Wall region during
the late Bronze Age period is unavailable due to the lack of
trauma prevalence data from the comparative populations. Eng
and Zhang (2013) investigated the trauma frequencies at
Jinggouzi Cemetery and the other three ancient populations in
northern China. Nileke Cemetery and Yanghai Cemetery were
nomadic burials located in the remote northwestern China during
the Early Iron Age, while the Lamadong Cemetery was a more
central agropastoral population during the dynastic period.
Compared with these populations, Jinggouzi showed a higher
trauma prevalence. Admittedly, due to the early disturbances of
the cemetery and the postmortem taphonomic damages especial-
ly on the subadult skeletons, the observed trauma in the present
study may not represent the actual prevalence of trauma in this
population. The phenomenon that some males were found head-
less could also lead to the underestimation of the cranial traumat-
ic prevalence in males. We also cannot exclude that some fatal
traumas did not leave any signs on the bones.
The possibility of conflict between populations
In consideration of the traumatic pattern in the Jinggouzi popu-
lation, the identification of the enemy side in the conflict plays an
important role in explaining the cause of the conflict. With regard
to the weaponry found in the tombs of Jinggouzi, we found that
the fine tri-winged arrowheads were special compared with other
rough grave goods among the burial artifacts. Only nine bronze
arrowheads were found in seven tombs out of the 58 tombs; eight
of them were tri-winged socketed arrowheads and one was a
dual-winged tanged arrowhead (Table 4). These tombs with
bronze arrowheads found were similar to the other tombs, which
consisted of both single individual burial and multiple individ-
uals burials. The bronze arrowheads were much fewer in number
and were scattered or close to the torso. However, the most
frequent weapons found in these tombs were the arrowheads
made from antlers (Fig. 11). A total of 251 were found; bunches
of them were placed beside the skulls or torsos in an orderly
manner as was shown in the tombs which were less disturbed.
This phenomenon may demonstrate that the antler arrowheads
were intentionally placed as the burial artifacts, while the bronze
arrowheads remained inside the body during burial by accident.
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The differences between the antler arrowhead and the bronze
arrowhead in material, shape, and location demonstrate that the
bronze arrowheads may come from another population who
fought with the Jinggouzi population.
Of all the bronze wares found in the cemetery, 95% of them
were ornaments, 4% of them were tools, and only 1% of them
were weapons, including two bronze daggers and nine bronze
arrowheads. The metal elements and lead isotope analysis
showed that almost all the ornaments and tools were Cu
SnPb alloy, which is significantly different from the mate-
rials from the local contemporary copper mine (Li 2015).
Although the specimens included in this study were not being
analyzed, the analysis of one of the arrowheads found in the
same tomb as the specimen M46:B showed that it was Cu
SnAs alloy and contained a significant amount of silver,
which is consistent with the local metal composition. The lead
isotope analysis also supported its local casting (Li 2015). It
demonstrates that the simple ornaments for everyday use were
not locally casted, but the very small amounts of the arrow-
heads were probably sourced locally.
Based on the gross examination of the external shape and
the 3D reconstruction of the embedded bronze arrowheads,
this type of bronze tri-winged socketed arrowhead had a
special identity and was mainly prevalent along the eastern
section of the ancient Great Wall region during the Bronze
Age (Shi 2006,2015) at the exact location of the Jinggouzi
Cemetery (Fig. 11). These local populations belong to another
cultural group called Bupper culture of Xiajiadian^which
were widely distributed in the eastern part of Inner Mongolia
and western Liaoning. Their funerary styles were completely
different from the Jinggouzi Cemetery. Their tombs were
southeast-oriented with stone coffins, and the exquisite bronze
wares and weapons were extremely abundant (Jin 1987). Even
bronze helmets and the stone molds for bronze arrowhead
casting were found in some of the cemeteries (Liu 2000;
Chen 2014). This leads us to suggest that the bronze arrow-
heads may belong to the local inhabitants who lived in the
eastern section of the ancient Great Wall region and acted as
the enemy of Jinggouzi inhabitants.
Climate and socioeconomic background
behind the conflict
Projectile injury caused by an arrow shot is a common skeletal
evidence of interpersonal violence in archaeological popula-
tions around the world (Lambert 1997;GuilaineandZammit
Table 4 The description of the
tombs with bronze arrowhead Tomb No . Ar ro whead
length (cm)
Arrowhead
condition
Location Bone arrowhead
amount
Individuals
Sex Age at
death
M20 2.2 Incomplete Scattered 16 Male 2530
M24 3.0 Incomplete Scattered 5 Male 2530
M26 3.4 Complete Scattered 13 Unknown 1217
Unknown 0.
M46 1.5 Incomplete Scattered 3 Male 22±
Male 20±
5.1 Complete Embedded Male 2025
Unknown 1.
M47 4.2 Complete Embedded 3 Male 1416
Female 2530
Unknown Adult
Unknown 7±
M51 3.5 Complete Scattered 6 Male 25±
Unknown 20±
Unknown 10±
3.6 Complete Scattered Unknown 67
Unknown Infant
Unknown Infant
M55 3.6 Complete Scattered 14 Male 22±
Female 1516
Unknown 1±
Unknown 1±
Unknown 0.
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2005). From the perspective of cause, injuries and deaths
caused by interpersonal violence can occur in many different
social situations ranging from personal conflict to warfare
between different populations due to territorial expansion, so-
cial dominance, or economic exploitation (Walker 2001).
Throughout human history, climate change has been
responsible for population migrations (Buzter, 1983;
Bridgeman 1983;Lamb1982;Kohleretal.2008;
Kuckelman 2010). It caused conflicts with pre-existing
populations. Numerous studies have focused on the rela-
tionship between climate change and violence, especially
between temperature extremes and the increasing levels of
conflict (Zhang et al. 2007,2011;Hsiangetal.2013;
Redfern 2017). In ancient China, the correlation between
climate change and conflicts was significant. When the
climate cooled, the population pressure caused by the in-
crease of population during the previous warm phase
along with shrinking livelihood resources resulted in the
higher frequency of conflicts between populations (Tian
and Shi 1995; Zhang et al. 2006). There is a close rela-
tionship between climate change and historical migrations
of the nomads in eastern central Asia and the southern
Mongolian grasslands (Chen 1931;Zhao1985; Zhang
et al. 2006;FangandGuo1992).
Climatological data indicate that the Eurasian Steppe expe-
rienced climate change to a cooler and drier environment dur-
ing the Bronze Age (Geel et al. 1996,1998; Shelach 1994).
Moreover, geological studies onthe thickness variations of the
past 2600 years in annual layers of stalagmite in northern
China also indicate that both northern and eastern Asia expe-
rienced a cold period between 665 and 510 BC, which hap-
pens to be the period of the Jinggouzi (Tan et al. 2003). This
climate variation led to the immigration of the nomad popu-
lation toward the south in the pursuit of better meadows.
The process of the migration and integration
in the ancient Great Wall region
The ancient Great Wall region played an important role during
the process of ancient Chinese history. As an important area
connecting the northern Eurasian Steppe and the East Asian
agricultural area, it witnessed migration, integration, and con-
flict between different populations throughout the history.
Historians have long recognized the strong association
Fig. 11 The comparison of the antler arrowhead in Jinggouzi population
and the common types of bronze arrowhead prevalent in the eastern
section of the ancient Great Wall region. Upper: the antler of Jinggouzi;
below: afrepresent the prevalent types of bronze arrowhead, and gis the
stone mold for the arrowhead casting. Redesigned from Wang et al.
(2010), Shi and Jia (2009), Shi (2015), and Chen (2014)
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2019) 11:66896704 6701
Author's personal copy
between the developments of the northern principalities of the
central regime and the northern nomads throughout the
Bronze Age with a concomitant conflict and warfare (Di
Cosmo 1999; Underhill and Habu, 2006). Not only the ancient
Chinese historical records recount the frequent conflict be-
tween the intrusive nomads, but the recent investigations on
the ancient Great Wall ruins also confirmed the existence of
the interaction in this region (Heritage Editorial Board 1981).
The Great Wall built by the Yan State was just about 100 km
southeast of the Jinggouzi Cemetery. Over the past years,
archaeological and anthropological pieces of evidence of the
integration indicate that several different archaeological cul-
tures prevailed in this area, and even different funerary styles
and populations can be found to appear in the same contem-
porary cemetery. Thus, it is generally thought that the integra-
tions of different populations during this period were gradual
and moderate in some regions (Zhang and Zhu 2010).
However, the reconstruction of the integration process can-
not only rely on the archaeological cultures, written historical
records, and cranial morphology, while neglecting the lines of
evidence from the skeletal traumatic remains themselves. As
the earliest North Asian appeared in this region, the relation-
ship between the Jinggouzi population and the locals provides
valuable evidence for the reconstruction of human historical
process in east Eurasia history. The high risk of mortality of
the young and the intense conflict show that multiple types of
integrations existed during that period, not only the moderate
types but also some intense types. The diverse pattern of pop-
ulation integration processes laid the foundation for the final
formation of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt which
initiated the beginning of a new era in Chinese history.
Conclusions
The skeletal remains are the mirror of history. The mortality,
trauma prevalence, and the arrowhead injuries presented here
provide a path for us to reconstruct the history in the region
even with the lack of any written record. From the combined
pieces of evidence, we conclude that the Jinggouzi population
is the southbound nomads and was in conflict with the aborig-
inals that lived in the east section of the ancient Great Wall belt.
This research not only provides osteological evidence of the
interpersonal conflict but also helps to further illuminate the
complex relationships among different groups living during
the formation of the Chinese northern nomadic cultural belt in
the Bronze Age, as an important part of the Eurasian process.
Acknowledgments Thanks are extended to Cheng K.L from the China-
Japan Union Hospital of Jilin University for the CT scan of the vertebrae
specimens. We are grateful to Tyler E. Dunn from the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Kara Adams for grammar editing
and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions
and elaborative review.
Funding information This work was supported by the Fok Ying
Tung Education Foundation for Young Teachers (Grant No.
141111), Special Funds for the Compass Planof the State
Administration of Cultural Heritage, and the NAP Start-Up Grant
from Nanyang Technological University.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of
interest.
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... Jinggouzi site (Figure 1) is located at 43°23 0 16"N, 118°1 4 0 28"E on the gentle slope of the ranges of the Greater Xing'an Mountains in Linxi County, Inner Mongolia in Northern China. The cemetery was considered as nomad tombs dating back to 2485 + 45 BP (Wang et al., 2010;Zhang et al., 2019). Livestock skeletons were abundantly found inside the tombs, and the main species were classified as horses, cattle, and sheep (Wang et al., 2010). ...
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