Mortal Wounds

The Human Skeleton as Evidence for Conflict in the Past

Martin Smith

Date Published :
November 2017
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
100 illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
ISBN : 9781473823181
Pages : 304
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
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Martin J Smith argues that the study of human remains is the purest, most reliable and unbiased source of evidence for the reality of conflict in the past. He outlines its value to the new science of Battlefield Archaeology and the wider understanding of historical conflict. He outlines the processes used in examining osteological remains to unlock the clues about what the combatants endured. Drawing on case studies spanning the millennia, the author shows how skeletal remains can often tell us, in chilling detail, exactly what a warrior suffered in his final moments (though often the evidence of healed wounds from previous battles is just as striking). This enriches our understanding of the human experience of battle as well as providing scientific data on the effects of various weapons on the human body. This is a book written with scientific rigor by a leading archaeologist but it will appeal equally to students of archaeology and the military historian with an interest in the brutal face of battle.

About The Author

Dr Martin Smith is Senior Lecturer in Forensic and Biological Anthropology at the University of Bournemouth. Martin Smith is a Biological Anthropologist with particular interests in prehistoric populations. His past work has covered a range of periods with particular focus on the Neolithic and concerned principally on areas of taphonomy and trauma with relevance to both forensic and archaeological remains. Martin has strong interests in the study of conflict from prehistoric to modern times. A question that continues to fascinate him is the extent to which war /organized conflict is ‘hard-wired’ in human beings rather than simply a practical response to environmental or social circumstances. His current research includes experimentation with weapons such as crossbows, blackpowder weapons and modern firearms on animal bone and synthetic substitutes for human bone.


"Overall, this book provides an excellent introduction to the bioarchaeology of interpersonal conflict. It will likely be of greatest interest to bioarchaeologists, but the thorough explanations and descriptions of concepts and methods make the book accessible to a general, non-specialist audience. Scholars of classical studies will find particularly useful the foundational chapters (Chapters 1 and 2) and the chapter that focuses on Roman evidence (Chapter 7). Nevertheless, it is hoped that the plethora of chronological case studies and historical trends presented in this book will allow for the emergence of a clearer understanding of the history of human violence."

- Classical Journal

“This engaging, well-written, illustrated book introduces readers to a relatively new field within anthropology called "conflict archaeology."… The book is aimed at general readers, and Smith avoids jargon whenever possible, clearly defining specialized terms when necessary. The book should also be worthwhile reading for academics with related interests but who lack expertise in skeletal analysis. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries”

- Choice

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