Editorials

Recording casualties of war

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5041 (Published 29 September 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5041
  1. Hamit Dardagan, codirector1
  1. 1Every Casualty Worldwide, London EC2A 4LT, UK
  1. Correspondence to: H Dardagan hamit.dardagan{at}everycasualty.org

Analysis, doi:10.1136/bmj.h4736

Why better data are important

The impulse to create a permanent record of a war, including those who died in it, is far from new. The Louvre’s curators believe that the museum contains the remains of the oldest known historical document, and certainly its oldest war memorial, the Stèle des Vatours, so named because of its representations of vultures feasting on the corpses.1 Dating from around 2450 BC the Sumerian memorial “commemorates not the glorious dead of the victors but their victory and the sorry fate of the vanquished, who are shown on the stele lying piled one upon the other.”2

Herodotus records 192 Athenians killed in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, an exact number that could be verified as much as 600 years later by the ancient Greek geographer Pausanias, who saw the stele inscribed with their names at their burial mound. Tellingly, the rounded number of 6400 Persians killed, estimated by the Greek victors, remains a matter of historical debate3—even today any record of …

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