Fractured Skull Shows Evidence of Earliest Known Murder
430,000-year-old blunt force trauma visible in this Middle Pleistocene skull may be the earliest-known evidence of murder.
Photo credit: Javier Trueba/Madrid Scientific Films
A cavern in Northern Spain called Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones,” has yielded thousands of bones fragments from at least 28 individuals since its discovery in the 1970s. Cranium 17, however, shows evidence of the earliest-known homicide.
After assembling the 52 fragments of the skull, researchers discovered two traumatic injuries, at least one of which is believed to have been fatal.
The report states:
Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene members of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and implied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin.
via PLOS One