The Bioarchaeology of Violence

The Bioarchaeology of Violence

The Bioarchaeology of Violence

The Bioarchaeology of Violence


"The tragedies of violence have seldom been told with such a compelling use of the biocultural perspective. Building on a solid methodological foundation, we are served theoretical perspectives that are unusually rich and nuanced in their application to the case studies. This collection of case studies is a valuable contribution to the bioarchaeological literature."--George Armelagos, Emory University

Violence has played an essential role in human social relations. Violence and conflict often have the ability to unite, create stability, and be a productive force while at the same time generating the antithesis of these positive influences. Previous perspectives on the subject have been narrowly conceived, and this volume aims to broaden theoretical paradigms within violence studies.

The Bioarchaeology of Violence provokes readers to imagine acts of violence not as a necessary evil or an abhorrent behavior but rather as a response to certain problems. It provides different ways to think about the relationship between violence and lived experience, and lived experience and cultural processes.

Experts on a wide range of ancient societies describe how violence can become ritualized over time, describe why and how certain forms of violence emerge, and explore both the costs and the benefits of violence throughout human prehistory. The contributors ultimately aim to explain why violence persists in the world today and offer insights into the factors that can disrupt and transform violence into less deadly activities.

A volume in the series Bioarchaeological Interpretations of the Human Past: Local, Regional, and Global Perspectives, edited by Clark Spencer Larsen


Violence is at the top of any list of central discussions in social science. One has only to look at leading professional periodicals in sociology, political science, and psychology to see the strong presence of academic considerations of conflict in these literatures. Today, reporting of violence permeates the popular press and at all levels, from accounts of personal attacks to gang violence to full-blown warfare involving conflicts between nations. This important book underscores the point that violence and most of its motivations have been with humans since the beginning of written history and well back into the remote past, including in ancient hominids living hundreds of thousands of years ago. Simply put, violence is part of the fabric of humanness.

Violence is a topic that is ripe for exploration and study by anthropologists. Yet, as Phillip Walker pointed out a decade ago, anthropologists have had a remarkably minimal presence in discussions of this topic. This is surprising because anthropologists have a range of theoretical and methodological tools that provide both the means to create the record of violence and to develop an informed understanding of its causes and consequences. As the chapters in this book demonstrate, bioarchaeology is well situated to provide important insights into developing a history of violence, the social identities of victims and perpetrators, and the causes and outcomes of aggression of a person or persons toward another person or persons. This is the case because skeletons are the only direct record of violence. The skeletal record is not subject to the interpretative nuances characteristic of at least some written records, especially those written by a dominant power or authority. Moreover, bioarchaeology views this record in a highly contextualized setting, drawing from a range of sources— archaeology, mortuary behavior, ecology, climate history, ethnohistory, ethnography, and economics.

This volume speaks to the growing interest in and importance of human remains from archaeological contexts. It addresses issues that affected past societies and that have implications for understanding the human condition and for addressing fundamental questions about the history of human aggression. I am especially impressed with the point . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.