Settled lives, unsettled times: Neolithic violence in Europe

Martin J. Smith, Rick J. Schulting, Linda Fibiger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The European Neolithic was a period of enormous social and economic changes affecting lifeways and population size, as well as beliefs and world views. By its closing stages in around 2500 BCE central and western European communities had been transformed from mobile or semi-mobile hunter-fisher-gatherer groups to settled populations reliant on farming and herding. The extent and significance of violence within and between communities during this period has long been debated, although attempts to resolve this issue have tended to generate more heat than light. However recent years have seen a growing corpus of evidence for violent assaults recognised among human remains from throughout Neolithic Europe. Viewed in aggregate, this line of evidence casts considerable doubt over notions of the period as a time of relative peace and stability. This chapter draws together the skeletal evidence for violence-related injuries from across Neolithic Europe and discusses these in terms of both overall prevalence and regional variation as well as the extent to which variations in demographic distribution are discernible. These patterns are considered in regard to the changing social contexts in which they occurred, with particular attention given to the role of population expansion, resource competition and the rise of social inequality. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Neolithic in the development of organised violence among human societies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge World History of Violence
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1: The Prehistoric and Ancient Worlds
EditorsGarrett G. Fagan, Linda Fibiger, Mark Hudson, Matthew Trundle
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781316341247
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameThe Cambridge World History
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • European Neolithic
  • skeletal trauma
  • regionality
  • population expansion
  • social inequality
  • organised conflict


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