Double blow to skull is earliest evidence of murder, a 430,000-year-old whodunit | Science News

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Double blow to skull is earliest evidence of murder, a 430,000-year-old whodunit

Fossil reconstruction gives hints on how to get away with homicide, Pleistocene-style

By
2:00pm, May 27, 2015
Cranium 17

FOUL PLAY  Cranium 17 was pieced together from 52 bone fragments fished from Spain’s Sima de los Huesos cave. Dating back 430,000 years, the skull exhibits signs of two traumatic injuries above the left eye, at least one of which proved fatal.

It’s a classic murder mystery: no motive, no weapon, no suspect. Just a body, dumped in a remote location with fatal head injuries. It would be standard fare for an episode of CSI — except that it happened 430,000 years ago. That makes it the earliest documented case of homicide, researchers report May 27 in PLOS ONE.

The victim spent almost half a million years entombed in an underground cavern called Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of Bones,” in northern Spain. Since the 1970s, researchers have unearthed nearly 7,000 bone fragments from at least 28 individuals of the Homo genus (SN: 7/26/14, p. 8). And now they’ve uncovered the first evidence of foul play.

A skull known as Cranium 17 belonged to an otherwise healthy

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