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13 December 2017
Study shows how Neolithic weapons were made to kill with one strike

A weapon used by Neolithic people could kill with one blow, according to a new study which used forensic detection methods to recreate violence from the period.
     Experts created a replica of a 5,500-year-old wooden club to inflict damage to a synthetic human skull. They found the so-called Thames Beater, pulled out of waterlogged soil on the north bank of the River Thames and carbon dated to roughly 3530 to 3340 BCE, would have made a lethal tool in the hands of its wielder.
     Archaeologists from the University of Edinburgh used tools normally employed to analyse the impact of gun shots. The researchers wanted to test whether the cricket bat-like paddle could have been used to inflict the kind of damage found on bodies buried in Western and Central Europe during the Neolithic era. One fracture pattern observed by the team mirrored damage to a skull from a 5200 BCE massacre site called Asparn/Schletz in Austria.
     Meaghan Dyer, PhD candidate at the university, said: "No one was trying to identify why there was blunt-force trauma in the period.  We realised we needed to start looking at weapons. We wanted to see if we could come up with a really efficient method to determine which tools could be used as weapons. We didn't go out aiming to replicate a particular injury, and when we got that fracture pattern, we were quite excited."
     Experts believe that if they can link specific weapons to specific injuries, they can start to reconstruct scenes of violence in the Neolithic era. They think weapons like the Thames Beater would only have been used in instances when they wanted to kill their opponent. The team had also discovered that direct blows can result in fractures previously attributed to falls. This could suggest that deaths put down to accidents may have in fact been the result of violence.

Edited from The Daily Mail (11 December 2017)

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