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More About: The Haunting Skeletal Legacy of Ancient Nomadic Warriors

Posted February 17, 1999

Photo: Skull

The blow of a pointed axe created a gaping hole in this Scythian-period adult male cranium.

Using swords, battle axes and arrowheads, Iron Age nomadic warriors in Eurasia viciously decapitated, scalped and cut the throats of their enemies, including men, women and children.

"Heads were decapitated probably to win war trophies," said Eileen Murphy, an anthropologist with Queen's University in Belfast, who specializes in the study of ancient human and animal skeletal remains. "Throats were cut either during warfare or as a sacrifice to a sword cult."

Murphy unearthed these gruesome findings at a South Siberian cemetery, where she studied the remains of more than 600 individuals who lived during the Scythian period (5th to 3rd century B.C.) and Hunno-Sarmatian period (3rd to 1st century B.C.).

She comes to Berkeley to discuss her graveyard anthropology Sunday, Feb. 18. The lecture, which begins at 3 p.m. in 220 Stephens Hall, is sponsored by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities.

The remains also point to brutal prehistoric surgical techniques, including amputation and a skull drilling procedure called trepanation.

For information call 642-3230.


February 17 - 23, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 23)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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