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Mayan Wall Depiction - Spiked Skulls

Traumatic skull injuries reveal Mayans used spiked clubs

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Archaeological clues such as fortified defences, remains of obsidian blades and projectile points, as well as numerous murals depicting warfare, suggest that Mayan society was not a peaceful one. The Mayans are known to have used a variety of weapons in war, such as blow guns, spears, daggers, and javelins, and now for the first time, scientists have found evidence that they also used spiked clubs which inflicted catastrophic injuries on their victims.

Evidence for the new weapon comes from the study of 116 skulls dated between 600 BC and 1542 AD, which were recovered from 13 sites, including the important Mayan capital of Mayapan, in northwest Yucatan, Mexico. The research published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology has revealed that the pattern of injuries seen in some of the skulls are consistent with being struck by a club with points embedded in them.

A spiked club

An example of a spiked club, which may have been similar to the clubs used by the Mayans.

Study author Dr Stan Serafin, a bioarchaeologist from Central Queensland University, said that the team examined the location, frequency, and shape of skull trauma injuries, such as the presence of unusual oval-shaped indentations, and concluded that these indicated the use of a spiked club.

The scientists also discovered that males had fractures concentrated on the front left of the skull, indicating that they were struck by a right-handed opponent approaching from the front, while a smaller number of female skulls showed injuries at the back, suggesting evidence of a surprise attack.

Wars were important to the Mayans for a variety of reasons, including subjugation of neighbouring city-states, acquisition of territory, prestige, control of resources, and capture of prisoners for slaves and sacrifices. Very little is known about what caused the sudden decline of the Mayan civilization in the late Classic period between 700 and 900 AD, in which towns and cities became depopulated and abandoned, but many have attributed it to the relentless warfare taking place.

However, in contrast to this theory, Serafin reported that the frequency of the skull trauma decreased during the late Classic period, which suggests that warfare “did not contribute to the Classic period collapse in this area." The researchers did find violence increased in the Post-Classic period, which Serafin says is to be expected since hard times tend to breed violence.

The study adds new insight into Mayan warfare and challenges the prominent theory that warfare was the cause of their downfall, leaving open the question as to what it was that caused a once great and powerful civilization to fall.

Featured image: The Bonampak murals depicting war scenes. Photo source.

By April Holloway



 I must say I disagree. I agree on the fact that what we have right now is not really any different from what we had back then but i dont think we need to go to tribal communities again, that would be a step backwards in my opinion.
Id much prefer us to become a load of independant City States again as i find that looking through history, they tended to work pretty well and if one didnt work it was absorbed by one that did pretty quickly.
As youve probably guessed im pretty excited about Venices move for independance.

I feel the City states would still have enough emphesis on advancement (and competition between each other), whilst the various states can make up their own rules about whats allowed and whats not, dont like it? Move to the city next door where they think the same as you.

They would have to somehow be "locked" into place or meassures taken to ensure one of them doesnt get to trigger happy but that is something i feel has to do with the human way of thinking and changes need to happen there before anything like this is even remotly possible.

Tribal societies would be too isolated and too vunerable to be of any real use to anybody, especially the human race as a whole, it would just be a Survival of the Fittest scenario in which you have only a few people to watch your back against thousands.

No need to care about all this special details, Just as now people back then were slaves of one ] or another form of Mega society, City states ruled by blood thirsty religion and their earthly representative back then, state and corporations ruled by capitalism and its earthly representatives now. It does not matter really, we need to abandon all structures created by mega societies and create back small egalitarian tribal societies, this is the Eden that we have lost.

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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