Hard Times in Dry Lands: Making Meaning of Violence in the Ancient Southwest

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The scientific and systematic integration of data derived from human remains is offered as an important methodology with which to test hypotheses regarding violence in the Greater Southwest prior to European contact. The evidence suggests a continuum of violent activities that does not fit into broad classifications such as warfare. Osteological remains combined with site information illuminates how and why violence was performed and bones were processed at certain times and in certain places. This context-specific approach affords a more emic glimpse of how violence was experienced by victims, perpetrators, and witnesses. Persistent forms of violence included (1) disarticulated human remains, (2) witch killings, (3) massacres, (4) nonlethal head wounds, and (5) raiding for captives. A model that takes these politically and culturally motivated behaviors into consideration is offered. A more parsimonious explanation for violence is that it was a cultural practice that was integrated into other ritual and ceremonial activities

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