Getting to the point: An experimental approach to improving the identification of penetrating projectile trauma to bone caused by medieval arrows
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Authors: Forsom, E. and Smith, M.J.
Journal: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd The bow and arrow were an important part of medieval warfare, and the study of projectile injuries in skeletal assemblages has the potential to give valuable insight into the nature of conflict in this period. Projectile injuries are often overlooked in favour of sharp force trauma, and as of yet there have been no experiments looking at skeletal trauma caused by different types of medieval arrows, although several studies have examined prehistoric impact marks. The current study addresses this deficiency by examining the lesions left by three kinds of medieval arrowheads: leaf-shaped broadheads, armour-piercing bodkins, and barbed hunting broadheads, when fired from a longbow into cattle scapulae. The results show that the vast majority of impacts are puncture lesions with shapes that roughly conform to the cross-section of the heads used, and many of the defects perforate the bone entirely and have internal bevelling. Based mostly on wound shape, it is relatively straightforward to distinguish between bodkin and broadhead punctures, while the different types of broadheads leave more similar, yet distinctive, marks. Further experiments are required in order to assess the extent to which it is possible to distinguish between projectile trauma and penetrating trauma made by other types of medieval weapons.