8th Experimental Archaeology Conference abstract – Dyer and Fibiger
Knocking Heads: a smashing investigation of the Thames Beater
Meaghan Dyer & Linda Fibiger
School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, UK
A notable level of inter-personal violence characterized the Early Neolithic in Britain, though the context and mechanism of this violence is often heavily disputed. Much of the trauma record from this period manifests as blunt force cranial injuries. The distinct problems identifying Neolithic weapons have prevented the attribution of much of the record to particular tools of violence. This research is the first time a particular weapon will be tested to try and attribute some of the traumatic record from the period. The Thames Beater, a wooden club, presented as an ideal choice of testable weapon based on its preservation, temporal and geographic context, and ethnographic considerations. A to-scale replica of the Thames Beater was used in experiments with both synthetic skull material and pig crania to try and produce blunt force fractures. The resulting fracture patterns were then compared with the archaeological record of the Early Neolithic to look for similarities. It is hoped this research will demonstrate the multi-purpose use of artifacts from the Early British Neolithic as both opportunistic weapons and daily tools; as well as provide the framework in which further experimental research can be carried out on other possible weaponry.
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