Experiments show Neolithic Thames beater could be used to kill a person

December 12, 2017 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report

The hand positions used to administer the two types of blow: left) the pommel strike; right) the double-handed strike. Arrows indicate direction of swing . Credit: Meaghan Dyer
(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with the University of Edinburgh has found evidence that the "Thames Beater" was a weapon that could be used to kill another person—perhaps at times, with a single blow to the head. In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes experiments they conducted to learn more about the lethality of the weapon.

Some time ago, archaeologists pulled a wooden club from a waterlogged part of the north bank of the River Thames—after dating it back to approximately 3530-3340 B.C., they subsequently dubbed it the "Thames Beater" because it had clearly been used by one person to beat another person during the Neolithic period. In this new effort, the researchers sought to learn more about the damage the weapon could cause.

Because they did not have access to an original club (only one real one has been found), and because they could not bash actual humans, the team fashioned their own clubs modeled after the original Thames Beater. To replicate the human head, they used a model that had been designed for military ballistic testing. Skulls were made of polyurethane which were filled with gelatin and wrapped with a rubber skin. The researchers then enlisted the assistance of a 30-year-old male volunteer to serve as a combatant wielding a Thames beater. He bashed the head of the model as hard as if he were fighting for his life. Upon examining the results, the researchers found that the Thames beater was, indeed, a that could be used to crack the of a human being and kill them.

The researchers than compared the fractured fake skulls with real ones that had been dug up from Neolithic graveyards and found at least one that looked very similar, suggesting that the person who had done the damage was likely using a Thames beater. Taken together, the evidence suggests the club was more lethal than has been thought. It also creates a better picture of what Neolithic violence was like, the researchers add, noting that the would likely have been used only in scenarios in which one person was very clearly bent on killing another.

The Thames Beater (top) and the replica club used for experimentation (bottom) with the blade, barrel and pommel labelled . Credit: Meaghan Dyer

Explore further: Rare seahorses spotted in Thames

More information: Meaghan Dyer et al. Understanding blunt force trauma and violence in Neolithic Europe: the first experiments using a skin-skull-brain model and the Thames Beater, Antiquity (2017). DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2017.189

Abstract
The difficulty in identifying acts of intentional injury in the past has limited the extent to which archaeologists have been able to discuss the nature of interpersonal violence in prehistory. Experimental replication of cranial trauma has proved particularly problematic due to the lack of test analogues that are sufficiently comparable to the human skull. A new material now overcomes this issue, and for the first time allows accurate insight into the effects of different weapons and different blows in inflicting cranial injury; in this case, blunt force trauma caused using a replica of the 'Thames Beater' Neolithic wooden club.

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41 comments

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Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2017
As a person with interest in ancient weaponry, thus club has the appearance of something designed as a tool that could be used perhaps as a weapon rather than something designed to be a weapon. Ancient weaponry was never crude. Perhaps in our eyes today we might think of it as crude, but at the time ancient weapons were "cutting edge", and precisely designed for their intended use, usually designed to defeat a specific defense. I am sure that at some point the first weapon was a re-purposed tool, and along the way tools were re-purposed as weapons when required - this "Thames beater" most certainly looks like the latter.
Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2017
Neolithic weaponry was far more likely to be a stone tipped spear. Perhaps when the first weapon was used, it was a hunting tool/weapon re-purposed as a human to human weapon. The "beater" is far more likely a mallet used on stone edged woodworking tools.
IronhorseA
5 / 5 (9) Dec 12, 2017
Looking at the weapon, I'm wondering just how old 'cricket' really is. :)
Gigel
1 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2017
On a less warlike tone, I wonder what that could do to a bear.

Maybe those things are the reason why bears fear us. But then I wonder what is the reason we fear bears?...
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Dec 12, 2017
KISS, sometime the simplest answer if not 100% accurate? Most likely will turn out to be more correct than fanciful complexity.

Most likely, the club was used for executions. Perhaps for sacrifices?

It would not be unreasonable that it was used for warring. An inexpensive weapon and with the forests all around, readily available. And if you are an extra-strong Goliath type? Why would you need to bother learning to use those new fangle flint or obsidian weapons. Those were for the weaklings who had to trade their women to buy such exotic imports.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2017
/me wildly speculates that a tool made for the killing blow after a hunt would work equally well as a weapon in human-human combat. The knob on the end both prevents losing the weapon, and serves as a counterweight to increase the force of the blow. The knob at the hilt of a baseball bat prevents the user from losing possession of the instrument.
MR166
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2017
"In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, the group describes experiments they conducted to learn more about the lethality of the weapon. "

That's funny, I don't remember reading anything about missing Trump supporters.
Gigel
5 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2017
That thing may NOT have been used for war, at least not usually. Seriously, think about it: 2 men, face to face, each with one of those in his possession, most of the blows would go beater-to-beater. Can you imagine what a strong hit to the beater would do to the hands of the one holding it? The kind of vibrations he would have to put up with? Probably not a very pleasant sensation.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2017
On a less warlike tone, I wonder what that could do to a bear
It would make him angry.

Which came first, weapons or tools? Tools or weapons? The first weapons were undoubtedly rocks or spears, also good for fishing or bashing small game.

As soon as protohumans became able to effectively hunt the predators that had been keeping their numbers in check human populations exploded, the struggle over resources ensued, and humans congealed into tribes for both defending and fighting purposes. Man became the principal enemy of man.

So all 'tools' found should be examined for their effectiveness as possible weapons.

"When used correctly during ancient times, a nunchaku, bat, bo or knife couldn't penetrate the blocks of a strong tonfa. In fact, the only thing that could was a sword. Just like the sai and nunchuck, it was a farm tool before it became a weapon."

Interesting, it looks a lot like a pledge paddle.
Claudius
5 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2017
So we need to do research to find out if a great club could kill someone?
Elmo_McGillicutty
5 / 5 (3) Dec 12, 2017
Your joking right? Any idiot can see that can kill a man. I think it's a ladle. Not mass produced.

Probably for making some kind of hooch.

MR166
4 / 5 (4) Dec 12, 2017
"So we need to do research to find out if a great club could kill someone? "

The problem is created by the fact that one needs to be published in order to progress in their field. But not everybody has brilliant ideas. Thus there is a LOT of bogus research published that is of no real value. Add to that the corruption of principles created by grant money and what should be science is turned into meaningless drivel.
Thorium Boy
3.4 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2017
A "team" of researchers determine a heavy wooden club could be used to kill someone. Your tax-dollar at work...
rountree
3 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2017
found by the water, a paddle is the first thing that comes to mind.
LuckyExplorer
5 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2017
"Experiments show Neolithic Thames beater could be used to kill a person" - you are kidding me! I don't need to make any research or experiment to see that it is possible to kill a person with this "Neolithic Thames Beater". Woow! Great result!
EnricM
5 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2017
On a less warlike tone, I wonder what that could do to a bear.

Not much I am afraid, unless the bear stood still or was already dead. The bear has more reach with it's paws and each of these is able to crack a skull with ease and it has claws too.

If you appear with one of these in front of a bear he/she would certainly become very afraid... of dying of high cholesterol or a heart attack from laughing.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Dec 13, 2017
and because they could not bash actual humans

Well...what are grad students for?

enlisted the assistance of a 30-year-old male volunteer to serve as a combatant wielding a Thames beater.

Not sure how realistic this is. Modern humans seem to be a good deal taller than their ancestors (though I don't know if this necessarily translates to strength, but certainly to increased leverage due to longer limbs).

He bashed the head of the model as hard as if he were fighting for his life.

Ah...now *that* was surely a grad student.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2017
This beater looks too short and flat-sided to be designed for human combat. My theory is that these things were carried by Neolithic farmers to help control their livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. Farm animals can be unruly, even dangerous. These beaters could deliver a strong whack to an animal without necessarily damaging it.
rrwillsj
4 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2017
goodpoint Ss2, I remember when I worked a sheepranch, long ago. An old ewe had the misfortune to go into estrus in the wrong season. The rams were a crazy mob swarming her.

We had to use axe handles to beat them off. Let me tell you, they have very hard heads. Had to swat their testicles to get their attention and force them to withdraw.

Hmm. kinda resembles the latest sex scandals among our alpha males?

Throwing clubs were used by boys and women for rabbits and birds and other vermin in the crops. Could defend against snakes.

Most large animals, especially predators have small brains well protected by thick skull. That also anchors muscles providing for a strong bite.

So, I think my suggestion of the Beater being used for executions and sacrifices is still in contention. Human skulls are fragile for a reason.

Microscopic analysis of flint production sites, show that it was the small to tiny flaked blades that were used as tools. The big rocks were discards.
Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2017
Ancient weaponry was never crude
This is hard to believe. Especially in times of armed conflict it was necessary to build number of weapons in minimal time. For me the thames above pictured look quite functional.. But they could be also used for another purposes - like the bats for beating flax or for laundry.


You should learn SOMETHING about a subject before speculating.....weapons are not made in a hurry at the time of armed conflict, without regard to the epoch.
Zzzzzzzz
4 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2017
That thing may NOT have been used for war, at least not usually. Seriously, think about it: 2 men, face to face, each with one of those in his possession, most of the blows would go beater-to-beater. Can you imagine what a strong hit to the beater would do to the hands of the one holding it? The kind of vibrations he would have to put up with? Probably not a very pleasant sensation.


You are describing a duel, not a melee type of war environment. In a battle scenario, the beater wielder is fairly quickly killed from a distance he cannot threaten by the holder of a spear.

In a duel with single hand weapons, shields would be employed to absorb blows by the opponent's weapon. Sword on sword clashes may be popular in the movies, but have no historical basis, outside renaissance era smallsword (rapier) dueling.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2017
and because they could not bash actual humans


Well...what are grad students for?
I find this offensive. What if I was to say this about liberals? How much righteous indignation should I expect to see?

Not only would I be accused of denigrating another social class, but I would be implying that they were somwhat less human than conservatives.

And I am sure no one here would agree with that, even if it were true.
Zzzzzzzz
not rated yet Dec 14, 2017
Archaeological exploration in the future could dig up a 20th century carpenter's hammer. Studies could be carried out that reveal that it could have been used to kill someone. None of that would shed any light on the purpose, design, or use of the hammer.

This "beater" was discovered amongst other things that indicated the possibility that it may have been used in that manner at the location. The same could conceivably occur for a carpenter's hammer, leading to quite erroneous conclusions about the purpose of what had been found..... a mistake that would never be made by anyone familiar with the tool.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2017
Well Zz, if the Beater was a carpentry tool? What was it driving? Late Stone Age, no nails. Perhaps used as a mallet to drive wooden wedges or dowels? Have any of those been found?

Plus, the face of mallets I've used are flat and take a beating (TIC) from their usage.

Future archeologists, examining a modern carpenters hammer, are going to find traces of metals struck. Such as nails or spikes. Traces of chemicals from treated and untreated woods. Even sweat, skin and blood from the carpenter wielding it.

If the Beater was a neolithic carpenter's tool? He was mighty careless. Bashing in someones head with it!

Than again, thinking of the annoying people pestering on a job? I would sympathize with a workman driven to a raging distraction by a rubbernecking git. Who won't shut up and let you finish the job without loudly giving you a lot of bad advice.

So... Even in that sense and sensibility, the Beater was used as a tool for execution. (rimshot)
Mastoras
3 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2017
these things were carried by Neolithic farmers to help control their livestock, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, etc.


No, that is not correct.
Being short, it means you always have to carry it, and you can't leave it on the ground. And it is unnecessarily heavy.

Shepherds do carry something, also used to control sheep. It is a long stick, like a spear. In fact, one end is indeed pointy so you can stick it in the ground. The other end is bent in the form of a Latin S, using fire and water. The s shaped end helps as an extension of the arm in order to reach and catch a stray sheep by the leg. The pointy end is used to control and direct an animal.

Being a stick, it also helps the shepherd in walking!! In fact, shepherds in Kypros (Chypre, Zypern) still call this a _kypodi_, "the fast foot". You may probably recall that in the Iliad, Achilleus was called (greek) Okupous (/greek), "fast runner".
EnricM
not rated yet Dec 16, 2017
Also good to remember is that warfare in the neolithic may have been strongly ritualized, much as it was until the times of the Irish celts or in the way it still is (was?) among the Papuans.

I would also like to point out that it's the copy what looks crude, I am not sure if it there is data about that, but the original could have been nicely polished and well finished.

BTW, the proper name for such weapons is not "Beater" but war club or war mace.
MR166
1 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2017
"I find this offensive. What if I was to say this about liberals? How much righteous indignation should I expect to see?"

Otto I did not realize that you were a snowflake. When society cannot accept a joke for what it is we are really in trouble. This PC sh*t has really got to end or our culture is doomed. If we can't even deal with so called micro-aggressions how can we deal with real adversity.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Dec 18, 2017
Uh that was a joke you dweeb
EnricM
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017


Throwing clubs were used by boys and women for rabbits and birds and other vermin in the crops. Could defend against snakes.



Good luck with that, the British Islands are notorious for their lack of snakes, there is only one species and it's rather far from dangerous. And rabbits were introduced by the Romans... Maybe they did it preemptively to be prepared when them fr*ggin' Romans came or some Aussie tourist brought a snake in his suitcase.

TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017
Good luck with that, the British Islands are notorious for their lack of snakes, there is only one species and it's rather far from dangerous
Yes. Prehistoric cricketbatters killed them all didnt they then? Nudge nudge wink wink
MR166
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017
"Uh that was a joke you dweeb"

As Sheldon says, "Oh, that was satire.".
Da Schneib
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017
You are describing a duel, not a melee type of war environment. In a battle scenario, the beater wielder is fairly quickly killed from a distance he cannot threaten by the holder of a spear.
This assumes that a formation of beater wielders faces a formation of spear wielders. And I deliberately did not look at that; I was thinking of melee combat, much more common in a primitive context.

In a duel with single hand weapons, shields would be employed to absorb blows by the opponent's weapon. Sword on sword clashes may be popular in the movies, but have no historical basis, outside renaissance era smallsword (rapier) dueling.
A sword (and I do not speak of rapiers or other pure stabbing weapons as you do not) is a pretty handy thing to have facing a melee combat. A short or medium sword seems an ideal weapon if one has the training to wield it effectively. Axes concentrate too much energy in the head and cannot do damage with the shaft.
Da Schneib
not rated yet Dec 19, 2017
And longswords are unwieldy in close combat.

I would guess that the Romans had great reasons for choosing the length they did for a gladius. And even better ones for choosing the length of a spatha.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2017
Thanks EM for correcting my obscurity. I was visualizing Amerindians. Makes sense that the Romans introduced large flopears to Britain. However, I am sure that hares and other grazing rodents were obsequious to all grasslands. And, who always got stuck with protecting the crops?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2017
"Experiments show Neolithic Thames beater could be used to kill a person"
So could rocks...
They needed a fucking "experiment"...?!?
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2017
WG, this is why it is called Science and not Theology.

Not going to pretend that this research is a 'World Beater'. {smirk}

However it is one more small piece of a very big, very incomplete puzzle. Lots of different lessons here to be learned by the students. Applicable to their professional futures.

I would suspect WG, that if you were deciding how to divvy up funds for research programs? Your prejudgements on what is worthy of your largesse (oh wait, it ain't your money) would preclude the unforeseen discovery or an accidental invention.

And then, what would you have to fulminate upon?
MR166
not rated yet Dec 20, 2017
"I would suspect WG, that if you were deciding how to divvy up funds for research programs........?"

I plan on writing a paper on the personal benefits of masturbation. Will you please fund my grant?
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2017
"It also creates a better picture of what Neolithic violence was like, the researchers add, noting that the club would likely have been used only in scenarios in which one person was very clearly bent on killing another."

-I think it's worth noting for the benefit of our gunphobe and knifephobe and sharpened stickphobe brit hosts that the presence of a lethal weapon most often serves to deter and prevent crime. The possibility of inflicting harm is often the only way of preventing it.
MR166
not rated yet Dec 25, 2017
You are wrong Otto. The most effective way to prevent crime is to hold a candle and sing "Give peace a chance." very loudly.

BTW just in case, that was satire also.

On a less snarky note, Merry Christmas to all.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Dec 25, 2017
Candle holders if designed properly can make effective weapons and are legal as well.

Even the thurible can be swung to great effect.
https://en.m.wiki...Thurible

And let us not forgeteth the holy hand grenade.
https://youtu.be/xOrgLj9lOwk

If you want to spread peace and love in this world, sometimes you gotta crack a few heads.
MR166
not rated yet Dec 26, 2017
Otto I cannot watch a fight scene in a move with out thinking of "It's only a flesh wound" and "Come back you coward.".

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