The Archaeology of Violence

Interdisciplinary Approaches

Edited by Sarah Ralph

Subjects: Anthropology, Archaeology
Series: SUNY series, The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology Distinguished Monograph Series
Paperback : 9781438444420, 306 pages, January 2014
Hardcover : 9781438444413, 306 pages, January 2013

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of Violence
Sarah Ralph
Section I: The Contexts of Violence
Sarunas Milisaukas
2. War Without Warriors?: The Nature of Interpersonal Conflict before the Emergence of Formalized Warrior Elites
Rick J. Schulting
3. Warfare in Northern European Bronze Age Societies: Twentieth-Century Presentations and Recent Archaeological Research Inquiries
Helle Vandkilde
4. Violence as an Aspect of Durotriges Female Life Course
Rebecca C. Redfern
5. Facing the Sword: Confronting the Realities of Martial Violence and Other Mayhem, Present and Past
Simon T. James
Section II: The Politics and Identities of Violence
Bradley A. Ault
6. Violent Discourses: Visual Cannibalism and the Portraits of Rome’s “Bad” Emperors
Eric R. Varner
7. “An Offense to Honor Is Never Forgiven…”: Violence and Landscape Archaeology in Highland Northern Albania
Michael L. Galaty
8. “Persuade the People”: Violence and Roman Spectacle Entertainment in the Greek World
Michael J. Carter
9. Past War and European Identity: Making Conflict Archaeology Useful
John Carman
Section III: Sanctified Violence
Peter F. Biehl
10. The State of Sacrifice: Divine Power and Political Aspiration in Third Millennium Mesopotamia and Beyond
Anne Porter

11. The Violent Ways of Galatian Gordion
Mary M. Voigt
12. An Archaeological Interpretation of Irish Iron Age Bog Bodies
Eamonn P. Kelly
13. The Archaeology of Destruction: Christians, Images of Classical Antiquity, and Some Problems of Interpretation
John Pollini
Section IV

Keith F. Otterbein

Interdisciplinary study of the role of violence in the Mediterranean and Europe.


The Archaeology of Violence is an interdisciplinary consideration of the role of violence in social-cultural and sociopolitical contexts. The volume draws on the work of archaeologists, anthropologists, classicists, and art historians, all of whom have an interest in understanding the role of violence in their respective specialist fields in the Mediterranean and Europe. The focus is on three themes: contexts of violence, politics and identities of violence, and sanctified violence.

In contrast to many past studies of violence, often defined by their subject specialism, or by a specific temporal or geographic focus, this book draws on a wide range of both temporal and spatial examples and offers new perspectives on the study of violence and its role in social and political change. Rather than simply equating violence with warfare, as has been done in many archaeological cases, the volume contends that the focus on warfare has been to the detriment of our understanding of other forms of "non-warfare" violence and has the potential to affect the ways in which violence is recognized and discussed by scholars, and ultimately has repercussions for understanding its role in society.

Sarah Ralph is a College Fellow in Archaeology at Harvard University.


"...a worthwhile volume … It will be useful reading for anyone interested in the nature of conflict and violence in European prehistory." — European Journal of Archaeology