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

Interpersonal violence in the Paleoamericans of Lagoa Santa, Brazil


1Genética e Biologia Evolutiva, Universidade de São Paulo, 2Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University

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The Lagoa Santa region in Brazil is unique archaeologically in the Americas, in part owing to the large number of human skeletons dated to the Early Holocene (n= 195; ca. 10,000-7,000 yBP). Few studies have approached the study of Paleoamerican patterns of violence from a population perspective. In this study, 63 crania from Lagoa Santa are analyzed for traumatic lesions. We test the hypothesis that prevalence of violence in Lagoa Santa is more similar to hunter-gatherers than to agriculturalists. For comparison, we use the Western Hemisphere Project (WHP) database composed by 6,733 prehistoric skeletons from 36 series across the Americas. Nasal trauma (1/30; 3.33%) and cranial vault trauma (6/63; 9.52%) were observed in Lagoa Santa series. These values are not significantly different (chi-square; p>0.05) from injuries involving the nasal bone (8/591; 1.35%) and the skull vault (108/966; 11.52%) of the hunter-gatherers of the WHP database. Both values from Lagoa Santa are higher than the prevalence of trauma for agriculturalists (1.20% and 3.03%, respectively), but the differences do not reach statistical significance. Males (2/22; 9.09%) and females (2/11; 18.18%) show similar prevalence of traumas. Only one case of adult vault is perimortem (1/5; 20.00%). These results suggest that interpersonal violence was an element of daily life in Lagoa Santa, although not in a different level than in other hunter-gatherer populations. These results suggest that violence in Lagoa Santa occurred in a domestic context and the majority of the injuries were not intended to have a lethal outcome.

Grant support from CNPq-Brazil (process 200034/2007-3) and The Ohio State University.

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