Scientists Find Evidence of 'History's First Murder'

Victim was bashed in head, chucked down cave shaft
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2015 5:35 AM CDT
An artist's impression of the people who inhabited the area 400,000 years ago during the Middle Pleistocene.    (AP Photo/Madrid Scientific Films, Kennis & Kennis)

(Newser) – An examination of ancient remains from a cave in Spain turned into an episode of CSI: Middle Pleistocene when scientists found evidence of what they say is the first known murder. The skull found in the "Pit of Bones" site belongs to a young adult who lived around 430,000 years ago and bears what researchers say are unmistakable signs of deadly violence, reports Forbes, which notes that the scientists have assembled enough evidence to convince a modern jury that the early human was likely killed by a right-handed attacker who hit the victim in the head twice with some kind of object—and it wouldn't take a prehistoric Columbo to deduce that the murder weapon was probably a rock.

This is the "earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence," the researchers write in the journal Plos One—and they note that the evidence of murder could explain why that body and 27 more were lying at the bottom of a cave shaft, apparently placed there by others. Given what's known of human behavior in the intervening 430,000 years, the scientists weren't too startled to find that the early humans they're studying were bashing each other over the heads with rocks. "Violence is a very usual behavior for animals," the lead researcher tells the Guardian. "It's not surprising that interpersonal violence took place." (Another ancient Spanish cave yielded the burial site of a "queen of the Stone Age.")

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