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Antemortem Cranial Injuries in the Altai Mountains Pastoralists of the Scythian and Xiongnu-Sarmatian Periods (5th Century BC to 5th Century AD)

https://doi.org/10.17746/1563-0110.2019.47.2.148-157

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Abstract

This article describes healed cranial injuries in the Altai Mountains pastoralists of the Early Iron Age, the increased prevalence of which may testify to interpersonal violence aimed rather at injuring than killing the opponent. Skulls of more than 500 adults from burials of the Pazyryk (5th to 3rd century BC) and Bulan-Koba (2nd century BC to 5th century AD) cultures have been analyzed. On the world scale, the level of nonlethal violence among the Altai Mountains pastoralists was moderate (25.5 % in males and 9.1 % in females). The frequencies, however, differ between the southern and northern Pazyryk populations (males, 35.7 % vs. 15.3 %, respectively; females, 16.7 % vs. 5.6 %) and between the early and late periods of Bulan-Koba (males, 32.7 % vs. 22.1 %; females, 10.0 % vs. 6.3 %, respectively). The high prevalence of injuries among the Pazyryk people from the high-altitude valleys of the Southeastern and Southern Altai might indicate scramble for limited resources under a harsh climate, whereas the high frequency among the early Bulan-Koba pastoralists could have resulted from an infl ow of migrants. In the Xiongnu-Sarmatian period, as compared to the Scythian period, repeated injuries became more frequent among males. Interpersonal violence among the Altai Mountains pastoralists involved mainly blows to the face, but in the Bulan-Koba males blows on the head were more random. Healed face injuries in women were likely associated with domestic violence.

About the Author

S. S. Tur
Altai State University
Russian Federation
Pr. Lenina 61, Barnaul, 656049


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For citation:


Tur S.S. Antemortem Cranial Injuries in the Altai Mountains Pastoralists of the Scythian and Xiongnu-Sarmatian Periods (5th Century BC to 5th Century AD). Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2019;47(2):148-157. https://doi.org/10.17746/1563-0110.2019.47.2.148-157

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