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Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Dr Andrew R Millard

Afshar, Z., Roberts, C. & Millard, A. (2018). Interpersonal violence among the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages inhabitants living on the Central Plateau of Iran: A voice from Tepe Hissar. Anthropologischer Anzeiger 75(1): 49-66.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The site of Tepe Hissar (Iran) experienced widespread cultural and economic changes during the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages (5th to the 2nd millennium B.C.). The discovery of evidence of burning, including charred human remains, the destruction of buildings (Periods II and III), and the presence of several mass-burials with comingling of human skeletal remains consisting of ten or more individuals (Period III), suggests interpersonal violence during these periods. The original excavator of Tepe Hissar, Erich Schmidt, suggested that phenomena such as war, massacres, epidemics, or similar catastrophes, may have been responsible for the excavated archaeological evidence. This study tests the hypothesis that interpersonal violence was responsible for this evidence. Patterns of violence related head injury are explored among 129 adult men and women from the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages. Sixty of the 129 (46.5%) crania examined presented with cranial trauma, with 25 (19.3%) having evidence of perimortem injury, and four (3.1%) and 31 (24%) individuals with signs of healing and healed head/facial trauma, respectively. Most of the injuries were located on the frontal or parietal bones of the cranium. Such findings may be interpreted as a result of the population experiencing a rise in social complexity and population increase that accompanied violence related to intra- or inter-group competition, often leading to lethal outcomes. These data support the hypothesis that the cultural and economic transitions and population changes that occurred at Tepe Hissar, and particularly in the Hissar II and III periods, were accompanied by tension and interpersonal violence.