An experimental investigation of cutmark analysis of sharp force trauma in the Bronze Age

Rebecca L. J. Strong*, Linda Fibiger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Many studies of Bronze Age weaponry have focused on demonstrating the capability and effectiveness of weapons in a combat context, with little or no observation of the osteological evidence for weapon use and trauma. Downing and Fibiger (2017) is the only study to have taken into consideration cutmark analysis of trauma sustained by Bronze Age weapons. The results of their study demonstrated a need for further research to distinguish between cutmarks sustained by Bronze Age swords and dirks, as the two weapons produced cutmarks with similar macroscopic morphologies. The aim of the current study is to re-evaluate the macroscopic and microscopic morphologies of a Late Bronze Age sword and Late Bronze Age dirk to identify characteristics to distinguish wound patterns from these weapons. A total of 13 strikes were performed by the weapons against two Synbone® cylinders and three Sus scrofa forelimbs. The cutmarks produced were analysed macroscopically, microscopically and metrically to observe distinguishing morphologies and discern between the cutmarks sustained by the two weapons. Results showed cutmarks sustained by the Bronze Age sword and dirk exhibited no distinguishing morphologies. Both weapons produced cutmarks characteristic of both knife and sword weapon classes demonstrating that current standards for identification of weapon class are not appropriate for Bronze Age weaponry. Further research should aim to provide a more suited classification system for diagnosing weapon class specifically for distinguishing the Bronze Age sword and dirk.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103843
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Early online date23 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sharp force trauma
  • Bronze Age weapons
  • cutmark analysis
  • experimental archaeology


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