[LMB] Men and Women, and Direction-Finding (was OT: Joke, Apologies)

Tony Zbaraschuk tonyz at eskimo.com
Fri Mar 6 05:38:42 GMT 2009

On Thu, Mar 05, 2009 at 10:37:08PM -0500, Paula Lieberman wrote:
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> > Weapons have been used against non-combatants quite often in
> > history.   There are lots of guesses we might make about why weapons
> > are buried with a person.
> The bones quite clearly showed trauma from warfare-type damage and regrowth, 
> and some of the women's skeleton's ALSO quite clearly showed fatal 
> battle-type damage/injuries, such as e.g. a busted cranium!  

Note that it's possible to have broken skulls and _not_ to have been
a warrior; ditto other wounds.  People can get massacred or executed
instead of dying in a fair (or unfair) fight.  They can also die as the
result of a fight and show no evidence of bone trauma at all (e.g. the
classic gut wound resulting in peritonitis, or a blade opening the
femoral artery).  So you have to be careful interpreting things.

There are a couple of bone patterns that are more diagnostic of 
massacre-of-noncombatant, most commonly broken forearms (which were
raised to try and fend off a blow; someone with a weapon would be
counterattacking instead), but interpreting skeletal remains is
not a simple art.

> The arrowhead 
> embedded in bone was a rather definitive piece of evidence in one the 
> women;s skeleton that the woman had been in combat and survived it for quite 
> long enough to be getting around with an arrowhead embedded in her body.... 

Not definitive; it could be a case of someone getting sniped from 
ambush, or even hit by accident during archery drill.  (Not, perhaps,
the most likely explanation, but a possible one.)

> and there were weapons by her side, and what she was wearing included armor 
> I seem to recall.

It's the _totality_ of the evidence that points to at least some of these
women being warriors, which is a concept I happen to agree with.  (Even
then, you _could_ have had someone, maybe a favored daughter, with wealth
and weapons, who hadn't necessarily used them -- consider the sword made
for Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury, for instance.  Certainties in archaeology
are rare, particularly when dealing with nonliterate cultures who haven't
left any records to tell us what they were thinking.)

Probably the most unequivocal evidence of warrior status is bone
deformation caused by weapons training (most likely archery, e.g.
the English skeletons of longbowmen from the _Mary Rose_).  I'm not
familiar enough with the evidence to know if that showed up as well.

Tony Zbaraschuk

In the theater of memory every play is an improve
Stored bits remade from piles of scattered stuff --
Yet the taste of the first kiss remains so real.

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