Conflict, violence, and warfare amongst early farmers in north western Europe

Linda Fibiger*, Torbjörn Ahlström, Christian Meyer, Martin Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bioarchaeological evidence of interpersonal violence and early warfare presents important insights into conflict in past societies. This evidence is critical for understanding the motivations for violence and its effects on opposing and competing individuals and groups across time and space. Selecting the Neolithic of Northwestern Europe as an area for study, the present paper examines the variation and societal context for the violence recorded in the human skeletal remains from this region as one of the most important elements of human welfare. Compiling data from various sources it becomes apparent that violence was endemic in Neolithic Europe, sometimes reaching levels of inter-group hostilities that ended in the utter destruction of entire communities. While the precise comparative quantification of healed and unhealed trauma remains a fundamental problem, patterns emerge that see conflict likely fostered by increasing competition between settled and growing communities, e. g. for access to arable land for food production. The further development of contextual information is paramount in order to address hypotheses on the motivations, origins and evolution of violence as based on the study of human remains, the most direct indicator for actual small- and large-scale violence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2209481119
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2023


  • Neolithic Europe
  • violence and conflict
  • warfare
  • bioarchaeology


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