Skeletal evidence for violent trauma from the bronze age Qijia culture (2,300-1,500 BCE), Gansu Province, China: English

Jenna M Dittmar, Elizabeth Berger, Xiaoya Zhan, Ruilin Mao, Hui Wang, Hui-Yuan Yeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This research explores how social and environmental factors may have contributed to conflict during the early Bronze Age in Northwest China by analyzing violent trauma on human skeletal remains from a cemetery of the Qijia culture (2300-1500 BCE). The Qijia culture existed during a period of dramatic social, technological, and environmental change, though minimal research has been conducted on how these factors may have contributed to violence within the area of the Qijia and other contemporaneous material cultures. An osteological assessment was conducted on 361 individuals (n = 241 adults, n = 120 non-adults) that were excavated from the Mogou site, Lintan County, Gansu, China. Injuries indicative of violence, including sharp- and blunt-force trauma that was sustained ante- or peri-mortem, were identified, and the patterns of trauma were analysed. Violent injuries were found on 8.58% (n = 31/361) of individuals, primarily adult males. No evidence of trauma was found on infants or children. Cranial trauma was found on 11.8% (n = 23/195) of the adult individuals examined. Of these, 43.5% (n = 10/23) presented with severe peri-mortem craniofacial trauma. The high rate of perimortem injuries and their locations indicate lethal intent. This lethality, in addition to the fact that individuals with trauma were predominantly male, suggest intergroup violence such as raiding, warfare, or feuding. Both social and environmental factors may have contributed to this conflict in the TaoRiver Valley, though future systematic archaeological and paleoenvironmental data will be needed to disentangle the many potential causal factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-79
Number of pages14
JournalInternational journal of paleopathology
Early online date10 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding to carry out this research was provided by the NAP Start-Up Grant from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Chinese National Social Science Key Project Grant for ‘The Mogou Cemetery Project: Multidisciplinary Research in Gansu Lintan’ (grant number: 18ZDA225); and by Banco Santander through the Santander Mobility Grant scheme at the University of Cambridge. The authors would like to thank all the student volunteers of the Mogou project and the staff at the Gansu Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology for their invaluable support and assistance during data collection.

Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Anthropology, Physical/history
  • Child
  • China
  • Female
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal System/pathology
  • Skull/pathology
  • Violence/history
  • Wounds and Injuries/history
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating/pathology
  • Young Adult


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