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

Blunt or sharp force trauma: differential diagnosis of a lesion on a Bronze Age skull from Uglemose, Denmark


1Department of Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington, 2Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

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The remains of several individuals, including two children and two adult males, were excavated from Uglemose (Owl Bog) outside of Birket, Denmark on the island of Lolland. Carbon-14 samples from one of the adult tibias places the find around 500 BC, the end of the Danish Bronze Age and transition period into the pre-Roman Iron Age (Kaul 2011). The skull of one middle adult male demonstrates a traumatic ante-mortem lesion to the left maxilla, directly below the orbit, that opens into the maxillary sinus. The left margin of the injury is slightly rounded and angled into the lesion while the right margin is pulled out from the lesion and has a much sharper border, suggesting a directional force from left to right.

Previous assessment of the lesion suggested projectile trauma as a cause (Kaul 2011) but the lesion does not conclusively demonstrate features of sharp force trauma. CT scans and 3D visualization of the skull show no evidence of structural changes to the maxillary sinus to support a conclusion of projectile trauma. Differential diagnosis through macroscopic and microscopic analysis of the lesion would suggest blunt force trauma rather than sharp force. The potential mechanisms of injury and cultural factors associated with interpersonal violence in Bronze Age Denmark will be discussed.

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