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Mideast violence goes way back

Head wounds common in region throughout last 6,000 years

12:23pm, July 18, 2012

Head-bashing hostilities haunted the Middle East long before the region’s current conflicts arose. Skulls of people from what are now Israel and the West Bank, dating to different times during the last 6,000 years, display a consistently high rate of serious injuries.

These head wounds typically were inflicted in small-scale brawls, not wars, say anthropologist Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University in Israel and his colleagues.

Skull injuries vary in frequency from about 1 percent to 25 percent at ancient sites around the world. Among human skulls previously excavated in Israel and the West Bank, 25 percent of individuals had suffered severe head wounds, whether they lived during the Copper Age or as recently as a century ago, the researchers report online July 11 in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology.

That rate held for skulls from farming and urban populations and from societies that included Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyria

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