In recent years, more attention from archaeologists and other history-related scientists has been focused on comprehensive studies of the great number of cultural heritage items using natural science methods. The ever-growing number of scientific research methods is being used to study the physical and chemical properties of ancient coins [1
], metal weapons [3
], and stone, glass, and ceramic archaeological objects [5
]. The obtained results are intended to be used to expand our knowledge about ancient production technologies, the origins of ore mining, the degree of preservation, and corrosion and crack penetration [6
]. The uniqueness and great value of museum archaeological items require modern, innovative approaches to their study. Besides this, nondestructive structural imaging methods such as neutron and X-ray tomography are advantageous [8
In our work, we want to present not only the capabilities of structural imaging methods [7
] but also bioarchaeological-related methods of historical reconstruction of the identification processes of damage caused by metal weapons of the Bronze Age based on human remains. Our joint studies are dictated by the requests of one scientific direction in archaeometry science, namely, conflict archaeology [11
]. There are many archaeological finds connected to the manifestations and determinations of great violence between individual humans and cultural groups in the past [11
]. The reasons, evolution, and passing of conflicts can be derived from joint research by physicists and anthropologists. Studies of ancient weapons and the remains of peoples can be used to recover the battle opportunities and experiences of the distant past. Modern osteology techniques and methods are used for reconstruction of the wounds, injuries, and traumas of ancient warriors or civilians. In the frame of the historical theory of conflicts, Bronze Age metal battle axes are indicators of a great degree of ancient society militarization [11
]. For these joint studies, we chose a bronze axe found on the forest-steppe territory of the area of the Abashevo archaeological culture, dated from the end of the 3rd millennium B.C. This culture is characterized by developed livestock, agricultural farming, and bronze metalworking, in which it has several points of linkage with the Eurasian metallurgical province [14
]. The axe was excavated in the Malo-Kizilsky settlement (territory of Eastern Abashevo) in the modern Ural region of the Russian Federation. On the other hand, one of the famous archaeological sites of the Abashevo culture is the Pepkino burial mound [16
] in the Volga region, Russia. This collective burial site contains the remains of 27 persons bearing traces of violent deaths. The nature of the injuries indicates that the enemies used bows in the first wave, and then they attacked with battle axes in close combat. Those Abashevo men from the Pepkino burial who did not fall from arrows immediately, fought hard. Their skulls show many traumas from strike weapons [17
]. The archaeology of conflict declares this tragic situation a result of the political and social situations of the tribes of the Abashevo archaeological cultures or their interaction with neighboring cultures. In addition to the remains of bones in the Pepkino burial, utensils, jewelry, bone amulets, and, particularly interestingly, production molds for bronze axes similar to the above-mentioned were found.
In order to expand our knowledge in the archaeology of conflict, the cultural origin of the found bronze axe, the technology of its manufacture, and the relation of this axe to the received lethal wounds on the skulls of the remains of people from the Pepkino burial mound were studied. In our research, modern imaging methods like neutron and X-ray microtomography were utilized. Manufacturing modeling based on the found molds was performed. We believe that the presented bioarchaeological results of our joint research can form a basis for some conclusions in the archaeology of conflict about ancient Abashevo cultural evolution and its cross-cultural interactions.