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Home » 430,000-year-old skull suggests one of the earliest known cases of murder

430,000-year-old skull suggests one of the earliest known cases of murder

A groundbreaking study published in 2015 sheds light on a significant at the Sima de los Huesos site in northern Spain. The site, located deep within an underground cave system, contains the remains of at least 28 individuals dating back around 430,000 years to the Middle Pleistocene.

One of the most intriguing discoveries was a nearly complete skull known as Cranium 17. It is composed of 52 cranial fragments found during excavations spanning two decades. The skull exhibited two penetrating lesions on the frontal bone, above the left eye.

The researchers employed modern forensic techniques to analyze the traumas. Through contour and trajectory analysis, they deduced that both fractures were likely caused by two separate impacts from the same object, with slightly different paths at the time of the individual's death. The injuries were deemed unlikely to have resulted from an accidental fall down the vertical shaft leading to the site.

Instead, the unique characteristics of the fractures, their locations, and the fact that they appear to have been inflicted by two blows from the same object, led the researchers to interpret them as evidence of an act of lethal interpersonal aggression. This interpretation suggests that this individual's death may constitute one of the earliest known cases of murder in human history.

Moreover, the study provided intriguing insights into the handling of the deceased. If the individual was already dead when the injuries occurred, it is likely that they were carried to the top of the vertical shaft by other humans. This observation supports the idea that humans were responsible for the accumulation of bodies in the Sima de los Huesos, hinting at early evidence of funerary behavior among our ancestors.

Source: Public Library of Science

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