Bioarchaeological Perspectives on Male Violence in Prehistory

Session Date: 
May 16, 2014

This talk examines the bioarchaeological evidence for violence and warfare in ancient California. Violent injuries in human skeletal remains provide one of the most compelling lines of evidence for violent conflict in prehistory. Injuries recorded in bodies, whether from clubs, spears, arrows or other weapons, enable the identification of victims and, by logical extension, the participants in physical acts of aggression. Using these data it is possible to reconstruct levels and types of violence, as well as the demographics of those engaging in such activities. In the Santa Barbara Channel area of California, where these patterns are well documented, the injury data show considerable variability in rates of violence across time. This temporal patterning suggests that conditions in the physical and social environment play an important role in human propensity for violent aggression and war. Also evident in these data is a strong sex bias toward male victims, suggesting the differential engagement of adolescent and adult males in both sublethal and lethal forms of aggression. These and related archaeological data help to broaden our perspective on the causes of human violence and enhance our understanding of its evolutionary underpinnings.

File 2014_05_16_05_Lambert.mp498.92 MB