The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Killed in action? A biomechanical cross-sectional analysis of femora of supposed battle victims from the Middle Bronze Age site of Weltzin, Germany


1Department of Biology, University of Hildesheim, 2Department of Archaeology, Landesamt für Kultur und Denkmalpflege

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Since the 1980s, large numbers of predominantly commingled human bones and archaeological artifacts from the Middle Bronze Age were found along a stretch of about two kilometers in the river bed and on the bank slopes of the river Tollense, Germany. A preliminary analysis of the bones and artifacts suggests that a large battle was fought here and that the skeletal remains represent victims of that battle.

CT-scans of 29 femora from the site Weltzin 20, the first intensively investigated site of the area, were used to analyze mid-diaphyseal cross-sectional geometry, using ImageJ and MomentMacroJ v1.2. Areas were standardized by body mass, and moments of area by the product of body mass and bone length. Obtained data were compared to Neolithic samples from the Bell Beaker and the Corded Ware cultures and to Bronze Age samples from the Únĕtice, the Unterwölbing, and the Wieselburger cultures using data from Sládek et al. (AJPA 130, 2006, 320-332).

Values for the Weltzin femora are closer to those of male than female femora from the assemblages used for comparison, corroborating previous determination of the Weltzin bones as predominantly male, based on morphological criteria. This is in line with the view that all or most femora represent battle victims. Moments of area are similar to those in the comparative male samples indicating similar activity patterns of the members of the different groups. This suggests that the combatants at Weltzin were probably common people rather than representatives of a specialized group such as professional warriors.

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