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Skeletal evidence for violent trauma from the bronze age Qijia culture (2,300-1,500 BCE), Gansu Province, China

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This research explores how social and environmental factors may have contributed to conflict during the early Bronze Age in Northwest China by analyzing violent trauma on human skeletal remains from a cemetery of the Qijia culture (2300-1500 BCE). The Qijia culture existed during a period of dramatic social, technological, and environmental change, though minimal research has been conducted on how these factors may have contributed to violence within the area of the Qijia and other contemporaneous material cultures. An osteological assessment was conducted on 361 individuals (n = 241 adults, n = 120 non-adults) that were excavated from the Mogou site, Lintan County, Gansu, China. Injuries indicative of violence, including sharp- and blunt-force trauma that was sustained ante- or peri-mortem, were identified, and the patterns of trauma were analysed. Violent injuries were found on 8.58% (n = 31/361) of individuals, primarily adult males. No evidence of trauma was found on infants or children. Cranial trauma was found on 11.8% (n = 23/195) of the adult individuals examined. Of these, 43.5% (n = 10/23) presented with severe peri-mortem craniofacial trauma. The high rate of perimortem injuries and their locations indicate lethal intent. This lethality, in addition to the fact that individuals with trauma were predominantly male, suggest intergroup violence such as raiding, warfare, or feuding. Both social and environmental factors may have contributed to this conflict in the TaoRiver Valley, though future systematic archaeological and paleoenvironmental data will be needed to disentangle the many potential causal factors.

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