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Paleolithic Cold Case Solved? Ancient Skull Reveals 33,000-Year-Old Murder

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Did scientists just solve the oldest cold case? New forensic analysis of the skull of a 33,000-year-old Upper Paleolithic man shows that he died a violent death.

Cioclovina Calvaria

The Cioclovina calvaria skull was first discovered in 1941 during phosphate mining project located in the Cioclovina cave in South Transylvania. It was the skull of an adult male that was found along with three stone tools and bear bones.

Because it was not discovered during a controlled excavation, its archaeological context is not well understood. However, it is among the earliest and well-preserved evidence of modern humans from Europe.

The skull has been extensively studied since its discovery, and now, an international team of researchers may have just discovered the Paleolithic man’s violent cause of death. For their study, researchers had a close look at the disputed fracture on the cranium to determine whether it occurred post-mortem or at the time of death and to see how it might have happened.

Ancient Murder

Researchers conducted simulations using synthetic bone spheres to test various scenarios that could possibly produce trauma similar to the Cioclovina skull. These included scenarios such as falling from a height and being hit using a bat or a rock, and they inspected the fractures using computed tomography technology.

Researchers determined that the skull actually had two injuries that were incurred during or near the time of death. In studying the results of the simulations, they found that they were likely caused by being hit consecutively by a bat-like object. Further, the positioning of the injuries at the right side shows that they were a result of a face-to-face confrontation with a perpetrator who was likely holding the bat with the left hand.

Simply put, 33,000 years after the Paleolithic man’s death, the researchers finally determined that he was violently murdered, as the injuries were not likely caused by an accidental fall or from post-mortem damage. Furthermore, researchers say that while the blow to the head was likely fatal, it is possible that the man also sustained other bodily injuries during the attack.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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