The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict  book cover
1st Edition

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

ISBN 9780367868277
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
752 Pages

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Book Description

If human burials were our only window onto the past, what story would they tell? Skeletal injuries constitute the most direct and unambiguous evidence for violence in the past. Whereas weapons or defenses may simply be statements of prestige or status and written sources are characteristically biased and incomplete, human remains offer clear and unequivocal evidence of physical aggression reaching as far back as we have burials to examine.

Warfare is often described as ‘senseless’ and as having no place in society. Consequently, its place in social relations and societal change remains obscure. The studies in The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict present an overview of the nature and development of human conflict from prehistory to recent times as evidenced by the remains of past people themselves in order to explore the social contexts in which such injuries were inflicted. A broadly chronological approach is taken from prehistory through to recent conflicts, however this book is not simply a catalogue of injuries illustrating weapon development or a narrative detailing ‘progress’ in warfare but rather provides a framework in which to explore both continuity and change based on a range of important themes which hold continuing relevance throughout human development.

Table of Contents

Part One: Context is Everything  Part Two: Since Time Immemorial? Conflict in Prehistory  Part Three: Hierarchies and Violence  Part Four: New World Orders: Conflict in the Americas  Part Five: Plus ça Change? Modern World Emergence

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Christopher Knüsel is Associate Professor in Bioarchaeology in the Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter. Works include Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from Towton, A.D 1461 (co-ed., 2000, 2007); Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains (co-ed., 2006), Velim: Violence and Death in Bronze Age Bohemia (2007), co-authored with Anthony Harding, Radka Šumberová, and Alan Outram. He is currently working on Funerary Archaeology: A Bioarchaeological Synthesis and serves as Co-Head of the Human Remains Team at Neolithic Çatalhöyük (Turkey).

Martin J. Smith is Senior Lecturer in Forensic and Biological Anthropology in the School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University. He recently published the first book to deal specifically with human remains from Neolithic Britain: People of the Long Barrows: Life, Death and Burial in the Earlier Neolithic, co-authored with Megan Brickley (2009), he has also authored a range of papers dealing with aspects of burial practice, post mortem damage to the skeleton and the recognition of violent injuries to human bone.


"This timely book presents detailed studies of human conflict from all round the world in many different periods from prehistory to the modern era. It is a showcase for the value of scientific analysis of human remains in revealing human brutality across time and culture. It will be required reading for archaeologists, historians, biological anthropologists and others interested in the study of violence in the past. A delightfully grisly read!" – Mike Parker Pearson, University College London, UK.

"…notable contributors move beyond description and draw insightful inferences about violence and its links to gender, social status, and citizenship. Summing Up: Recommended." -P. L. Geller, University of Miami, USA, in CHOICE