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Scientists capture a 33,000-year-old murder of a left-handed paleo killer



  Cold Case Closed: Scientists Attack 33,000-Year-Old Murder on a Left-Handed Paleo-Killer

The Cioclovina skull has two large cracks, probably due to interpersonal violence during the Paleolithic era.

Picture credits: Kranioti EF. et al. PLUS ONE. 201

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One of the coldest recorded cases – the mysterious death of a man about 33,000 years ago – was finally resolved: a left-handed killer killed the man by shattering his skull with two consecutive strikes, a new study found. [19659005] What was the murder weapon? A bat-like object, meaning the victim was probably beaten to death, the researchers found.

"Our study shows that this man was killed as a result of a blunt trauma to his skull," said lead author of the study, Katerina Harvati, a professor of paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen. "The extent of the injuries he would have sustained would have led to death, but how or why this happened can only be speculated." [Back to the Stone Age: 17 Key Milestones in Paleolithic Life]

All that remains of the old murder victim is a skull, known as the Cioclovina calvaria (a calvaria is a skullcap). In 1941, there were phosphate miners in the Pestera Cioclovina Cave in southern Transylvania, along with stone tools from the Paleolithic and several cave bear fossils.

Other studies have shown that the skull belonged to an adult male. The researchers, however, could not agree on how this man's injuries were caused or whether the skull was damaged before or after his death. A team of international researchers from Greece, Romania and Germany has reviewed it again.

"The individual of Cioclovina is particularly important as it is one of the earliest and relatively complete skulls of modern Paleolithic Europeans (a period that started between 40,000 and 45,000 years ago, as the great spread of modern humans in Europe "Human remains from that time are very rare and often very fragmented."

Harvati and her team did a CT scan of the skull to get a detailed look at the They then took 12 synthetic bone balls and subjected them to various traumas, dropping them from above (to model a possible fall), striking them with stones and beating them with bats.

"Our results showed clearly that the fracture patterns were observed on this skull could not be produced after death or by accidental fall n, "Harvati said. "Instead, they closely matched the expected patterns of blunt trauma (ie trauma caused by a blunt instrument such as a club) on the head."

The locations of the injuries also revealed clues to the killers. It appears that the assassin faced the victim during the attack and was probably a leftist because the injury was on the right side of the skull, "although the possibility [the murderer] of holding the object with both hands can not be ruled out." The researchers wrote in the study.

During the Paleolithic, people were creative; They developed cultural and technological innovations, symbolic behavior and artistic expression. But her world was a violent place. "We show that they were also capable of murder," said Harvati.

It is not surprising that the Paleolithic was a violent period, but "this is still a very valuable study," said Niels Nørkjær Johannsen, associate professor in the Department of Archeology and Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, which was not involved in the research.

Some people might say, "Is not that obvious?" The man died of violence, Johannsen told Live Science. However, it is important not to simply make assumptions about the past. "They really take the necessary care and do all this work to say that this is certainly interpersonal violence." It is as certain as these things occur in these kinds of sciences.

The study was published online today (July 3) in the journal PLOS ONE.

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