|19 August 2019
Evidence of violence behind human skull remains from the Palaeolithic
Analysis of the fossilized skull of an Upper Palaeolithic man suggests that he died a violent death, according to a study by an international team from Greece, Romania and Germany led by the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany
The skull, known as the Cioclovina calvaria, was originally uncovered in a cave in South Transylvania (Romania) and is thought to be around 33,000 years old. Since its discovery, this fossil has been extensively studied. Here, the authors reassessed trauma on the skull - specifically a large fracture on the right aspect of the cranium which has been disputed in the past - in order to evaluate whether this specific fracture occurred at the time of death or as a postmortem event.
The authors conducted experimental trauma simulations and inspected the fossil both visually and virtually using computed tomography technology. They found there were actually two injuries at or near the time of death: a linear fracture at the base of the skull, followed by a depressed fracture on the right side of the cranial vault.
The simulations showed that these fractures strongly resemble the pattern of injury resulting from consecutive blows with a bat-like object; the positioning suggests the blow resulting in the depressed fracture came from a face-to-face confrontation, possibly with the bat in the perpetrator's left hand. The researchers' analysis indicates that the two injuries were not the result of accidental injury, post-mortem damage, or a fall alone.
While the fractures would have been fatal, only the fossilized skull has been found so it's possible that bodily injuries leading to death might also have been sustained. Regardless, the authors state that the forensic evidence described in this study points to an intentionally-caused violent death, suggesting that homicide was practiced by early humans during the Upper Paleolithic.
Edited from Popular Archaeology! (4 July 2019)
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