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

Testing the source of the non-embedded projectile point: inflicted point or pit fill?


1Anthropology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2Anthropology and Sociology, Illinois State University, Normal

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Previous research on Late Woodland period (AD 900-1200) intergroup violence in the Hamilton Mortuary Complex (HMC) of East Tennessee revealed a prevalence approaching 10%. As no trophy taking was observed, the frequency was based on inflicted points, ectocranial trauma and mass interments where at least one burial displayed with an inflicted point. However, the mortuary context in several HMC sites included individuals with projectiles either recovered in the thoracic cavity or touching a long bone. The field notes concluded that the body cavity points were also inflicted. However, without evidence of infliction, the stray points are at best suggestive evidence of violent trauma. The projectiles involved are small (circa 20-25 mm) and finely serrated arrow points. If such a point glanced bone, the sawing action would theoretically leave nicks. This was tested in the HMC Hiwassee Island site adult sample (N=82). Skeletons with embedded points, non-embedded body cavity points, cached points (occurring at the neck or upper chest), or no points were examined with a hand lens for evidence of nicked bone. No cuts or nicks were found in individuals in any context, even the inflicted cases. Given the possibility of sampling error, further forensic assessment of HMC contexts is warranted. However, the veracity of the test relative to the field report is the results of a mortuary assessment of the cached points: these are (exclusively) male grave inclusions of a quiver of arrows (and presumptive bow) as all interments cross an arm over the chest.

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