The ABC’s Science Department has reported on news that researchers have uncovered evidence of the oldest murder in history. According to the team from Madrid, a 430,000 year old skull found at the bottom of an ancient burial shaft shows signs of involvement in a pre-historic homicide.
The Spanish team discussed its groundbreaking discovery in a report published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, . Believed to be a primitive Neanderthal, the remains were found in the ominous sounding ‘Pit of the Bones’ (Sima de los Huesos) located in the exotic Atapuerca mountains. Scientists and researchers have noted that the skull shows obvious signs of a homicide, with two deep fractures observable in the fragmented bone.
“This individual was killed in an act of lethal interpersonal violence, providing a window into an often-invisible aspect of the social life of our human ancestors,” the study’s lead author, palaeontologist Nohemi Sala, told the ABC. “Based on the similarities in shape and size of both the wounds, we believe they are the result of repeated blows with the same object and inflicted by another individual, perhaps in a face-to-face encounter.”
After in-depth examinations were carried out using modern techniques, the team was able to determine that the victim suffered two significant blows to the left side of the forehead. Because each wound was nearly two centimetres wide, the group believed that it was clear evidence of what is today called ‘blunt force trauma’.
The murder victim suffered two penetrating fractures on the forehead’s left side, above the eye. Using forensic methods like those employed by police, the researchers interpreted the wounds, each two centimetres wide, as evidence of blunt-force trauma occurring around the time of death. Similarities between the two fractures may also indicate that the same weapon was utilised for both blows (most likely a wooden spear, stone spear tip or stone hand-axe).
“Since either of these wounds would likely have been lethal, penetrating the brain, the presence of multiple wounds implies an intention to kill,” Ms. Sala explained. “Unfortunately, the intentions do not fossilise, so it is impossible to interpret the motivation of the killing. Not even Sherlock Holmes could help us in that.”
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