Debra L. Martin

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Nevada, Las Vegas, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9707

Approve Date

October 5, 2018

Project Title

Martin, Dr. Debra, U. of Nevada. Las Vegas, NV - To aid research on 'Contextualizing Massacres in Small Scale Societies: A Pueblo Case Study'

DEBRA L. MARTIN, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, received funding in October 2018 to aid research on “Contextualizing Massacres in Small Scale Societies: A Pueblo Case Study.” Massacres have a deep history with human groups across all time periods and in all regions of the world. The earliest known massacres occurred approximately 10,000 years ago. Massacres have three unique aspects to them when compared to other forms of warfare and violence. They often involve the complete annihilation of the bodies of the victims, the victims often include men, women, children, infants, and companion animals, and the event is usually a spectacle that is meant to communicate culturally specific messages to bystanders, witnesses, and victims who escaped. This project re-analyzed a number of disarticulated skeletal assemblages from the Ancestral Pueblo groups living in the American Southwest prior to contact (~AD800-1400). Earlier studies suggested these intentionally cut and broken bones were the result of anthropophagy (cannibalism). Multiple lines of evidence were brought to bear to support the hypothesis that these assemblages were the result of small-scale massacres. The data brought to bear included the placement and type of cutmarks, anvil abrasions and fracture patterns, the lack of any human tooth marks on any of the bones, the placement of the bone deposits within sites, the demographic features of the assemblages, and the selective use of burning. These intentional and culturally specific modifications to the bodies after death suggest a highly ritualized form of killing and post-mortem processing that had deep meaning to the groups carrying out the massacres that was akin to a cultural “reset” with regeneration and transformation through these acts of extreme violence.