5.8 Conflict

The Highland Region is famous for having produced unequivocal evidence of interpersonal Neolithic violence in the form of a flint leaf-shaped arrowhead embedded in an adult’s vertebra at Tulloch of Assery B (MHG932) which demonstrates that the bow and arrow were used for conflict as well as for hunting.

Adult human vertebra with a tip of a flint leaf-shaped arrowhead embedded in it from Tulloch of Assery B (c) NMS

This is not the only evidence for interpersonal Neolithic conflict in the region, however; osteological research on the individuals from the three Loch Calder cairns (Tulloch of Assery A and B and Tulach an t’Sionnaich) has uncovered evidence for a cut mark to a humerus in Tulloch of Assery B that may relate to a blow to the arm with an axehead or similarly sharp weapon. Other osteological research, recently completed by Angela Boyle on the human remains from Strathglebe chamber tomb, has revealed evidence for blunt force trauma to the skull of an adult male, indicating that the individual was killed by being hit on the head with a blunt instrument. This is not the only region in Scotland where inter-personal violence occurred during the Neolithic: there is plentiful evidence from Orkney for this, including blows with a macehead or similar blunt instrument, and also probably with an axe (Lawrence 2006; Crozier 2018).

Adult male skull from Strathglebe chamber tomb, showing possible blunt force trauma, The blue arrows indicate the location of the possible trauma; red arrow indicates radiating fracture. ©Angela Boyle

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