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


The effects of resource stress on rates of traumatic injury in medieval and post-medieval southern German and alpine Austrian populations

LESLIE L. WILLIAMS1, GEORGE MCGLYNN2 and CLARK S. LARSEN1.

1Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, 2Staatssammlung für Anthropologie und Paläoanatomie München, Staatlichen Naturwissenschaftlichen Sammlungen Bayerns

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The relationship between conflict and resource availability has been frequently documented in archaeological and ethnographic research. We test the hypothesis that high resource stress is correlated with traumatic injury by examining trauma in five German and Austrian skeletal series dating from the 10th-19th centuries AD. The Little Ice Age (LIA), ca. AD 1300-1850, was a time of unpredictable and cold weather that historical climatologists associate with increased resource stress. The prior period was warmer and temperatures less variable. This comparison of pre-LIA and LIA periods provides the context for addressing impacts of resource stress on rates of traumatic injury.

The presence of traumatic injuries was quantified on an individual level and by three body regions: the cranium, ribs, and long bones. 12.8% of LIA individuals (24/188) and 12.3% of pre-LIA individuals (7/57) showed evidence of traumatic injury. The frequency of cranial and long bone trauma was greater in the LIA, while the prevalence of rib trauma was greater in the pre-LIA. None of these temporal differences reached statistical significance (chi-square; p>0.05). These findings suggest that more complex versions of the resource stress-violence model should be applied in this context, that LIA-associated resource stresses were variable enough for conflict to be mitigated in these communities, or that traumatic injury in the LIA is not visible in the skeleton.

This research was funded by a predoctoral fellowship from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, The Ohio State University Alumni Grant for Graduate Research, and Sigma Xi.

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