2013 Volume 121 Issue 3 Pages 217-227
Sharp force trauma to the skeleton is an important source of evidence for violent injury in the past. Lesions attributable to possible perimortem sharp force injury were observed in 20 fragments within disarticulated and commingled human bone from the Smith’s Knoll collection, an assemblage associated with the battle of Stoney Creek (1813, southern Ontario, Canada). Following analysis, questions remained surrounding lesions on fragments of the ribs and one distal fibula (SK0129). To better evaluate which injuries to the ribs were perimortem and what weapon is likely to have caused the injury to the fibula, faunal proxies were constructed and experimental lesions created using period replicas of a sword and a triangular socket bayonet. Similarities between the archaeological rib lesions and experimentally produced bayonet injuries indicate that 14 of the 38 lesions present in the rib fragments likely represent perimortem injuries. Two possible scenarios involving the sword and triangular socket bayonet were tested to determine the likely cause of the injury on the fibula. This injury displayed significant differences in appearance from the experimentally produced bayonet lesions on the replica lower leg, and was observed to correspond closely with characteristics associated with sword injuries described in the literature. This indicates that the lesion more likely represents the result of a sword stroke. Consideration of these injuries in the context of historical documentation regarding soldier experience during the battle of Stoney Creek helps to explain the apparently unusual placement of sharp force injuries within the skeleton of the individuals in the Smith’s Knoll collection. This sample provides a unique opportunity for an evaluation of archaeological lesions that incorporates historical, experimental, and osteoarchaeological evidence, allowing a more nuanced understanding of violent injury in the past.