Dull-edged weapons and low-level fighting in the late prehistoric southern levant

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While duels and other types of fighting with a relatively low level of lethal risk are well known from the ethnographic record, these have been less studied from an archaeological perspective. These fights are different from 'war' in the lack of killing intent and they are commonly referred to as 'ritual fighting', thus implying the social significance of the act and not just the outcome. Our study concentrates on the Late Pottery Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of the southern Levant from which the physical evidence of violence is relatively scarce, although conflicts are assumed to have intensified due to the increase in long-term settlements and density of population. We will argue that the three types of weapons found during these periods-maceheads, slingstones and transverse arrowheads-are characterized by dull or blunt peripheries and were intentionally designed not to cause maximal injury or inflict lethal blows. These weapons are well represented only after the hunting of wild game dramatically declined and we suggest that they represent the conduct of low-level fighting, consequently indicating the presence of rules and social organization that are essential elements for the formation of early complex societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-452
Number of pages20
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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