School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Munro Lecture - Professor Christopher Knüsel: 'Violent Injuries and Scapegoats at Neolithic Çatalhöyük'

The Neolithic Near East is characterised by innovations in subsistence strategies, expanded social networks, artistic elaboration, long distance exchange, and increased community size and corresponding population densities. In order to sustain these socio-cultural changes greater cooperative behaviour and increased social tolerance between and within communities was required than had previously existed among smaller and dispersed groups of hunter-gatherers. Evidence of ritual elaboration is considered to have provided a release to dissipate increased social tension, and the absence of fortifications, weapons, and warriors in these early communities supports the interpretation of them as ostensibly peaceful. Although early researchers such as Lawrence Angel identified traumatic injuries at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, these were thought to be low-level, rare, and largely owing to accidents and thus inconsequential evidence for inter-personal violence. The large Neolithic village/town at Çatalhöyük became inscribed in the popular consciousness as an example of a peaceful early farming community that thrived under the tranquil gaze of the mother-goddess. As was the case in Neolithic Europe until recently, this interpretation remains dominant in the absence of systematic study of human remains for evidence of violence-related trauma. Renewed excavation and a larger corpus of human remains provide the opportunity to re-visit these interpretations. By means of a joint epidemiological analysis of cranial trauma and mortuary practices, this contribution explores the subtle equilibrium between social tolerance and violence in this densely populated Neolithic community. It demonstrates the increasing relevance of violence as a mediating social mechanism for regulating intolerant behaviour that also includes instances of discrimination and marginalization.

This event is free and open to all.

Professor Knüsel's Biography

Christopher Knüsel is Professor of Biological Anthropology, Université de Bordeaux, France. He holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Madison (USA) (B.A. (Hons.), Anthropology, 1984), the University of York (U.K.) (M.A., Medieval Archaeology, 1986), and Simon Fraser University (Canada) (Ph.D., 1991), where he wrote a thesis on early hominid cranial biomechanics. He was formerly a Leverhulme Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Bradford (1991) and then lectured there from 1992 until 2008, before moving to an Associate Professorship in Bioarchaeology at the University of Exeter. In 2014, he moved to Bordeaux, where he heads up the Master’s course in Archaeothanatology and convenes the ‘From Biological Diversity to Bioarchaeology’ research theme.

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His research interests link social archaeology and skeletal biology/osteoarchaeology, especially with regard to activity-related skeletal change and orthopaedic disabilities; funerary archaeology, with an emphasis Europe and Western Asia from the Palaeolithic to the Later Medieval periods; palaeopathology and palaeodemography. Recent research centres on the use of biological anthropological data within its archaeological context to provide insights into past social organisation: the development of social inequality, violence and warfare, élites and ritual specialists, as well as the definition of archaeological patterning and bone assemblage modification relating to the performance of past funerary rites.

He is co-editor of (with Veronica Fiorato and Anthea Boylston) and contributor to Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from Towton, A.D 1461 (Oxbow Books 2000, 2007) and contributor to and co-editor (with Rebecca L. Gowland) of Social Archaeology of Funerary Remains  (Oxbow Books 2006). He has also co-authored Velim: Violence and Death in Bronze Age Bohemia (with Anthony Harding, Radka Sumberová, and Alan Outram) (Czech Academy of Sciences 2007, available from Oxbow Books). More recently, in 2014, he co-edited (with Martin J. Smith) and contributed to The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict.

He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, an Editorial Board Member (Comité de Lecture) of Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, and an Associate Editor and member of the Advisory Board of the International Journal of Paleopathology. He served as Co-Head, with Professor Clark Spencer Larsen (The Ohio State University, USA), of the Human Remains Team at the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük (Turkey) from 2012-2018, under the overall direction of Professor Ian Hodder (Stanford University, USA). With Bordeaux colleagues Eline M.G. Schotsmans and Dominique Castex, he is currently editing The Routledge Handbook of Archaeothanatology, the first multi-authored, book-length treatment of this subject in English.






Nov 07 2019 -

Munro Lecture - Professor Christopher Knüsel: 'Violent Injuries and Scapegoats at Neolithic Çatalhöyük'

The next Munro Lecture will be delivered by Professor Christopher Knüsel on 7 November, 2019. This event is free and open to all.

Meadows Lecture Theatre, Doorway 4, Old Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG