Is This the World’s First Murder Victim?

posted: 05/28/15
by: Danny Clemens
Cranium 17 Bone Traumatic Fractures
Javier Trueba /Madrid Scientific Films

Even the name of archaeological dig site Sima de los Huesos is creepy. Spanish for "Abyss of Bones", the underground cave in northern Spain houses the skeletal remains of almost 30 individuals from the Middle Pleistocene period, 430,000 years ago. Archaeologists still haven't figured out how the bodies got there - the cave is only accessible through a deep vertical shaft.

Now, they have another question to add to the mix: how did one of the cave's residents end up with two enormous gashes in their skull?

Researchers assembled the unlucky individual's battered skull from 52 fragments found over a period of two decades. Using modern forensic techniques, they deduced that the the two blows came from the same object, from slightly different angles. The injuries are unlikely to have been caused by a fall down the deep vertical entrance to the cave -- instead, the blows appear to be the result of human aggression.

"Evidence for interpersonal violence in the human fossil record is relatively scarce, and this would appear to represent the coldest cold case on record," said archaeologist Rolf Quam.

Quam's work is detailed in a new study in the open-access journal PLoS One.

Click here to learn more from Binghamton University


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