This 4,30,000-year old case may be the world’s oldest murder mystery.
Scientists said a fossilised skull discovered deep inside a Spanish cave shows telltale signs of homicide: two fractures inflicted by the same weapon. The skull, belonging to a primitive member of the Neanderthal lineage, was found in an apparent funerary site down a shaft in the appropriately bleak-sounding Sima de los Huesos, Spanish for “Pit of the Bones,” in the Atapuerca mountains.
The skull shows that our species, Homo sapiens, cannot claim a monopoly on murder.
“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,” said paleontologist Nohemi Sala of Madrid’s Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humano.
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 nearly an inch (2 cm) wide, as evidence of bluntforce trauma occurring around the time of death.