Title

Lethal Interpersonal Violence in the Middle Pleistocene

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-2015

Keywords

blunt head trauma; spain hominin sample; los huesos atapuerca; breakage patterns; postmortem interval; fracture patterns; skull fractures; bone-fractures; force trauma; sima

Abstract

Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene members of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and implied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin.

Publisher Attribution

Sala, N., Arsuaga, J. L., Pantoja-Pérez, A., Pablos, A., Martínez, I., Quam, R. M., ... & Carbonell, E. (2015). Lethal interpersonal violence in the Middle Pleistocene. PloS one, 10(5), e0126589.