Spanish Cold Case – The Atapeurca Mountains and The Invention of Murder

Double blow to skull is earliest evidence of murder, a 430,000 ...

Some 430,000 years ago in Northern Spain an assault was committed. The victim was a young person of Neanderthal descent. They received two lethal blows to the head above the left eye. They were made by the same weapon but from two different angles suggesting two deliberate strikes. The similar size and shape to the blow would indicate two successive strikes.

Using a CSI method of analysing the wounds we can draw the conclusion that the victim was likely facing the assailant when they were attacked and that the victim would have been alive suggested by the oblique angles and smooth surfaces of the fracture.

After the assault the victim’s body was thrown into a 43-foot vertical shaft and would not be discovered again until 1984 by modern man. The victim was known as Cranium 17. Archaeologists believe that the body was deliberately dumped in the gorge after death.

Although there is little, we know about this “John Doe” or better yet “Juan Doe” what we can know is that they were a young adult (gender unidentified) and that the skull featured the two prominent holes in the forehead and above the left eye socket indicating blunt force trauma. There was no sign of healing to the bone which would indicate a fatal wound.

A candidate for the weapon would probably be a hand-axe typical of those used by our ancestors at that time, we know from the time period that metal had not yet been invented. Stone is the likeliest deadly tool used.

While many ancient skeletons will depict death as a result of cannibalism or injury; this is the earliest discovery of an intentional act of murder. This demonstrates premeditated intent when you consider the two strikes and subsequent “dumping” of the body. However; we can not be certain if the body was given a ceremony or dumped – as there were many other remains discovered inside the pit which would indicate a ceremonial burial for the dead.

With no suspects and no witnesses; it will be extremely difficult to bring the perpetrator to justice but what we can determine from the fatality is a glimpse and clues into the life of our Neanderthal cousin.

Cannibalism has been evidenced as far back as 900,000 years ago but an intentional act of murder has been harder to find according to the LA Times. There are many discoveries of murder victims in the ancient remains of human, but this is about as far back as it goes – backing up the theory that humans are an inherently violent species.

With the case well and truly cold I plead anybody with any information to come forward and help identify potential suspects in this matter and see that justice is served.





Maine Crime Link