Standen, Vivien G.; Calogero M. Santoro; Bernardo Arriaza; John Verano; Susana Monsalve; Drew Coleman; Daniela Valenzuela and Pablo A. Marquet

The Neolithic or Formative Period in the New World drastically transformed the mode of production in human societies with the domestication of plants and animals. It impacted the way of life and social relations among individuals in permanent farming villages. Moreover, the emergence of elites and social inequality fostered interpersonal and inter-and intra-group violence associated with the defense of resources, socio-economic investments, and other cultural concerns. This study evaluated violence among the first horticulturalists in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile during the Neolithic transition between 1000 BCE - 600 CE. Furthermore, it analyzed trauma caused by interpersonal violence using a sample of 194 individuals. Strontium isotopic composition was examined to determine whether violence was local or among foreign parties. Settlement patterns, weapons, and rock art also were evaluated to assess expressions of violence. Skeletal and soft tissues presented the most direct evidence for violence. About 21% (n = 40) of adult individuals, particularly men, showed trauma compatible with interpersonal violence, with 50% (n = 20) of trauma appearing fatal. The findings suggested that violence was between local groups and that social and ecological constraints likely triggered violence within local communities.