Project financed by the Croatian Science Foundation: The effects of endemic warfare on the health of historic period populations from Croatia




Project summary:

Warfare has afflicted humankind throughout its history, and is a phenomenon that still fundamentally affects the modern world. Despite the fact that violence-related mortality is profoundly undercounted, violent conflict represents a worryingly high source of mortality around the world. Recent history has seen a fundamental change in the nature of war with a marked shift from external to internal wars, a type of war characterized by low-intensity, endemic warfare that the international community is still struggling to develop the strategies and mechanisms to deal with effectively. Exactly this type of warfare is present in Croatia from 1400-1700 when the territorially aggressive Ottoman Empire establishes itself on Croatia's eastern borders. Analyzing the effects that war had on health through the deep time perspective that archaeological investigations afford can provide unique data on the interactions between warfare, health and the environment and provided conclusions that are particularly relevant to disadvantaged communities throughout the developing world where most wars are currently being fought. This project assembles an international and multidisciplinary team of collaborators to conduct bioarchaeological investigations on two large composite skeletal samples from Croatia. The two composite series represent individuals who inhabited Croatia throughout: a) the Late Medieval period (1100-1400 AD) a period of relative prosperity and peace prior to the arrival of Ottoman Turks, and b) individuals who inhabited Croatia in the Historic period (1400-1700 AD) during which time the Ottoman Empire gradually expanded into East and Central Europe. The research will reconstruct Historic period health, diet, weaning practices, and disease and trauma patterns by comparing them with data from the Late Medieval period using bioarchaeological, paleopathological and stable isotope analyses of human burials from Croatia. The project is a collaboration between researchers and postgraduate students who specialize in bioarchaeology, paleopathology, paleodemography, paleodontology, radiology and stable isotope analyses from four institutions: the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the School of Dental Medicine of the University of Zagreb, the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology of the University Hospital Dubrava, and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research of the University of Cambridge. The data and conclusions this project produces will be of use to international agencies dealing with the consequences of endemic violence in under-developed and developing regions of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, where violence has increased dramatically related to displaced populations, and will be shared with the scientific community and public through online databases, academic publications, and popular venues that promote interdisciplinary science.


Scientific institutions collaborating in the project


Anthropological centre of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Prof. dr. sc. Mario Šlaus

Dr. sc. Vlasta Vyroubal             and        Željka Bedić

Anita Adamić

University College Dublin, Ireland, and Institue of Anthropology Novak

School of Dental Medicine, University of Zagreb

                         Prof. dr. sc. Hrvoje Brkić         and           prof. dr. sc. Marin Vodanović                                     

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, UK 

Dr. sc. Emma Lightfoot

University Hospital Dubrava in Zagreb Mislav Čavka






Dr. Lightfoot takes samples for analysis of stable isotopes



Degenerative changes in the spine        Hypoplastic defects in teeth                Radiological changes associated with scurvy







Perimortem trauma


Invitation for public presentation of the project 11/25/14




updated: 05/26/17
date: 04/03/15
edited by: D. Torbica