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19 June 2017
The Archaeology of Violence

International colloquium organized by Inrap and the Museum of Louvre-Lens.
October 2, 3 and 4, 2104 at La Scène du Louvre-Lens

The archaeology of violence: wartime violence, mass violence 
by Augusta McMahon, Cambridge University

Mesopotamia saw the world’s first cities, a settlement form so successful that the majority of the world’s population is now urbanised. But early urbanism was not all positive. City growth led to crowding, craft specialisation reduced consumer choice, and power shifts–including the growth of institutions–fostered status and wealth inequalities. At Tell Brak, Syria, c 3900 BC, these stresses led to an outbreak of internal violence represented by mass graves with evidence for corpse abuse.

Augusta McMahon is an archaeologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, UK. She has excavated widely across the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Yemen, focussing on ancient Mesopotamia in the 5th through 1st millennia BC. Her research interests include early urban sustainability, past violent conflict and warfare, and sensory archaeology.   


  • McMahon, A., A. So?tysiak, and J. Weber.  2011.  "Cities and Conflict: Late Chalcolithic Mass Graves at Tell Brak, Syria (3800-3600 B.C.)".  in Journal of Field Archaeology 36(3): 201-220.  
  • McMahon, A.  2013.  "Mesopotamia",  in P. Clark, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 31-48.  
  • McMahon, A.  2013.  "Tell Brak, Early Northern Mesopotamian Urbanism, Economic Complexity and Social Stress, fifth-fourth millennia BC",  in D. Bonatz and L. Martin, eds. 100 Jahre Archäeologische Feldforschungen in Nordost-Syrien - Eine Bilanz.  Weisbaden: Harrassowitz, 65-78.


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