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Reviewed by:
  • War and Sacrifice: Studies in the Archaeology of Conflict
  • Barry D. Kass
War and Sacrifice: Studies in the Archaeology of Conflict. Edited by Tony Pollard and Iain Banks . Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007. ISBN 978-90-04-15458-2. Photographs. Figures. Notes. Index. Pp. xiv, 224. $132.00.

War and Sacrifice is an interesting collection of articles devoted to archaeological approaches to the study of violence and war in European prehistory and history. All of the scholars are faculty from European universities, and so a range of topics distinctive to that continent are portrayed in these informative essays. The papers in this volume originally were presented at a conference on "Warfare and Violence in Prehistoric Europe" hosted by Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, in May 2005.

While the articles in this book cover a wide range of topics related to "conflict archaeology" from Paleolithic to Neolithic times, most of them concentrate [End Page 1213] on providing important evidence for violence and organized killing before the advent of the historical era in Europe. They will help dispel the myth of a peaceful Europe during the Paleolithic and Mesolithic, and the notion that warfare only originated in the conditions which led to the coming of the era of cities and civilizations. The lessons learned through archaeological research, as presented in many of the essays, should give scholars a more accurate understanding of the roots of organized violence deep in human antiquity and in human nature, and not just in the economic and social conditions of modern (postliterate) urban societies.

The various approaches to conflict studies in War and Sacrifice begin with Detlef Gronenborn's article, "Climate Change and Socio-Political Crises: Some Cases from Neolithic Central Europe," in which he finds a temporal correlation between periods of increased violence/warfare and climatically unstable periods, as evidenced from research in geology. Mariya Ivanova, the author of "Tells, Invasion Theories, and Warfare in Fifth Millenium B. C. North-Eastern Bulgaria," emphasizes that archaeological evidence indicates that intergroup conflict was typical between farming communities of the Lower Danube as long ago as 5000 B. C. One of the few articles in this book devoted to a historical context is "Excavations at Bishop Street Without: 17th Century Conflict Archaeology in Derry City" by Paul Logue and James O'Neill. Fortifications found through scientific excavations are described. In contrast to the detailed minutiae of the archaeological record described in Logue and O'Neill's article, J. P. Mallory, in "Indo-European Warfare," takes a broad view of the linguistic connections evident throughout Europe which shed light on the actual names from the late Neolithic onward of weapons, fortifications, terms for aggressive behavior, trauma, and other key factors associated with the origins of warfare among the diverse peoples united by Indo-European languages. "Finding Fear in the Iron Age of Southern France," by Mags McCartney, finds evidence for violence and warfare in the settlement archaeology of Iron Age France, in which "fear" of violent death manifests itself in an increased delineation of personal space and reductions in social access on an individual level in changing village construction, in other words, socialization for mistrust. Roger J. Mercer's essay, "By Other Means? The Development of Warfare in the British Isles 3000–500 B. C.," attributes the development of warfare in Britain from the late Neolithic to the late Bronze Age to shifting social-political patterns leading to the creation of military groups and warbands. The paper titled, "The LBK Enclosure at Herxheim: Theatre of War or Ritual Centre?" by J. Orschiedt and Miriam Noel Haidle is unusual in this collection of essays because the authors, through careful archaeological research and detailed examination of human bones, actually refute speculation that the large number of fragmented bones found at Herxheim represent warfare, but rather provide evidence of recurring ritual acts.

Finally, the concluding paper, which the reviewer believes to be the most important article contained in this volume, is "War as a Paradigmatic Phenomenon: Endemic Violence and the Finnish SubNeolithic" by Joonal Sipila and Aniti Lahelma, in which the authors make an excellent case that there is evidence for warfare in a supposedly "peaceful" prehistoric Finland, [End Page...


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pp. 1213-1215
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Archived 2010
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