Conflict and death in a late prehistoric community in the American Midwest
Milner, George R.; Ferrell, Rebecca J.
Over the past two decades, it has been recognized that the effects of intergroup conflict in prehistoric small-scale societies were greater than previously thought. Osteological evidence provides otherwise unobtainable information on the number of people who were killed, and who was most likely to become a casualty. One such site is Norris Farms #36 in the American Midwest, dating to ca. AD 1300. Skeletal evidence of injuries (blunt force trauma and arrow wounds), body mutilation (scalping, decapitation, and dismemberment), and scavenger damage indicate that one-third of the adults died in a series of ambushes, although children were mostly spared. Both young and old adults were killed, and the age distributions of the male and female victims were similar. Individuals with disabilities that interfered with mobility were more likely to be killed than their healthier counterparts. This level of conflict-related mortality almost certainly had an effect on the community's ability to conduct its affairs and, indeed, to survive as a viable economic and social group.