Significant Impacts: Causes, Consequences and Treatment of Prehistoric Head Injuries

Thursday 27 April
Room 16, Medecroft, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

A seminar by Dr Martin Smith, Dept. of Archaeology, Anthropology and Forensic Science, Bournemouth University.

​​What was prehistoric life like? Was it ‘nasty, brutish and short’ or were early societies populated by ‘noble savages’ who have since fallen from grace through the corrupting influences of wealth and civilisation? Scholarly opinions differ, and without written records, and with archaeological evidence open to multiple interpretations, such views have remained largely a matter of conjecture. However, preserved human bones may offer the most direct and unequivocal line of evidence for the quality of life in the past. In particular, recent advances in the understanding of mechanisms of bone fracturing, coupled with reconsideration of past human remains, has revealed serious head injuries to have been far more common throughout prehistory than was previously realised. Many of such injuries are also most consistent with assaults with various weapons, contra to previous views that saw accidents as being the principal cause.

This presentation considers what these injuries might be able to tell us regarding human behaviour and conflict in the past, their ongoing effects at the level of individuals and also the extent to which evidence for early surgery may largely relate to efforts to treat such wounds.

This is part of the annual seminar series delivered by the Centre for Medical History; for more information about the centre, click here.

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