How do you know how a man died 30,000 years ago?
(this article first appeared in the fruit shell)
the skull in the picture belongs to an adult male who lived in Europe about 33,000 years ago. In 1941, some miners found him in a cave in Romania.
what is interesting is that a large central depression of fractures and cracks can be seen on the right side of the skull. What happened to this skull and its owner? Was he injured and beaten by falling rocks more than 30,000 years ago, or was he accidentally damaged his skull with explosives by miners long after his death?
recently, forensic researcher Elena Kranioti and her colleagues solved the mystery behind the skull scar. In a paper published in Public Library of Science (PLOS ONE), the researchers said the owner of the skull was likely to be the victim of a violent conflict or murder. A crack in the skull showed that he was beaten to death by another man with a blunt instrument similar to a bat.
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so how do you know this?
the scars are very different before and after death
in this skull, there are actually two cracks, one is the sunken fracture we see in the picture, surrounded by radial and annular cracks, and the other is a linear fracture at the base of the skull. The radial crack stops where it extends to a linear fracture, suggesting that the scar at the base of the skull appears first.
the first question that needs to be answered is when these scars appeared. After the skull injury, did the human who lived 30,000 years ago survive for a period of time, or did he die immediately? It depends on whether there are signs of healing in the area of the fracture. Examination showed that the wounds on the skull lacked signs of healing, so the person must have died shortly after the injury, or when the skull was cracked.
so how can we be sure that these cracks appear when he is dying (or just died), rather than long after his death? This can be judged by the way the bone cracked. When people live and just die, bones are more elastic and attached to soft tissue, while long after death, bones become drier and brittle, and they are deformed and broken in different ways when subjected to external forces. On this skull, for example, plastic deformation occurs in the part of the impact, and small fracture fragments are still attached to the wound, indicating that the trauma occurred near death, not long after death.
was hurt by what? do an experiment to see
so how do you know what caused these cracks? Why do you say it was hit by a stick, but why can't it be hit by a rock?
on the one hand, the characteristics of trauma can be compared with previous experience and data; on the other hand, the researchers also carried out a series of simulation experiments with the model. They found a "model skull ball" that could simulate the mechanical properties of real bones, injected gel into it to simulate the brain, and then hit the models with sticks, smashed them with stones, or threw them off the heights.
(the experimental model used by the researchers. Taking a look at this model called "SYNBONE", which is mainly for brain surgeons to practice drilling holes in the skull, etc.)
the results show that the cracks caused by hitting with a wooden bat are most consistent with the characteristics of the wounds on the right side of the skull. As for the crack at the bottom of the skull, the cause is relatively less certain, but it is more likely to be hit with the same stick. In short, simply falling from a height or being hit by a falling rock does not explain the characteristics of the cracks in the skull.
not only that, forensic analysis can also reproduce the scene of violence at that time. Judging from the direction of the fracture depression and displacement, the victim of 30,000 years ago should have been face-to-face with the killer, who could be left-handed or holding a stick in both hands. The unfortunate victim is more likely to die of fatal brain injury, but since his body parts have not been preserved, the possibility of injuries to other parts cannot be ruled out.
the researchers say this suggests that in the late Paleolithic period of 33000 years, it was already a part of human behavior. Of course, this is probably not surprising at all.