Archaeologists Uncover World's First Murder

The discovery at the Sima de los Huesos site in Spain's Atapuerca Mountains has allowed scientists  to use modern forensic techniques to review a 430,000-year-old 'cold case' which may be the first confirmed murder in human history.

The skull was first unearthed in the Atapuerca Mountains, which are threaded by a series of limestone caves, sinkholes and tunnels in  northern Spain, the researchers pieced together 52 fragments of a near-complete skull. They discovered two holes close together in the skull, above the left eye, caused by two separate impacts from the same object following slightly different trajectories.

They concluded that the primitive man was killed as a result of a deliberate attack by a right-handed assailant armed with a spear or hand axe. The crime is the earliest evidence of human-on-human violence in the fossil record – and the way the body was found strongly suggests that hominins were engaging in funerary rituals hundreds of thousands of years before our species evolved.

"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," said lead study author Nohemi Sala.  It is unknown what that object was, but it may have been a stone hand ax or a wooden spear, the researchers suggest.  "Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill," they say in their study published in PLOS One.

..... Devashree Goenka