The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Cranial Depression Fractures of the Frontal Bones from a Bronze Age Arabian Commingled Tomb


Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Lethal violence and perimortem trauma have been a recent focus of studies, but less reporting of nonlethal (healed or healing) trauma has occurred, especially for the Bronze Age Arabian Peninsula. This research examines the presence and frequency of cranial depression fractures (CDFs) within the United Arab Emriates site of Tell Abraq. The assemblage consists of at least 286 individuals of all age groups and both sexes, from a Late Bronze Age (c. 2100 BCE) Umm an-Nar style tomb (communal chambered mortuary context). The repeated use of the tomb presents analytical challenges, as the assemblage is highly commingled and fragmentary. For example, the MNI based on cranial features (i.e. 76 glabella) are significantly lower than other elements such as the right talus (n=286). Also, the cranial sex ratio (54.5% male 45.5% female) differs from that of post-cranial elements (65% male 35% female), suggesting differential disposal of male crania.

Analysis of frontal fragments revealed that there were 11 CDFS identified on a total of 8 individuals. Where sex could be estimated, females show 13.3% (4/30) and males show 8.3% (3/36). One unusual case of a female with 5 CDFs is highlighted. Mostly, these are small, relatively spherical CDFs (less than 35 mm2 in area). One male and two females, however exhibited larger, elliptical CDFs with areas greater than 110 mm2. While CDFs can result from accidents, recent forensic research has shown that trauma to the head above the hat brim line are more likely to be the result of interpersonal conflict.

This research was partially funded by the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), Barrick Fellowship, and the Lincy Foundation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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