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PLoS One. 2015 May 27;10(5):e0126589. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126589. eCollection 2015.

Lethal interpersonal violence in the Middle Pleistocene.

Author information

1
Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Madrid, Spain.
2
Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Madrid, Spain; Departamento de Paleontología, Facultad Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
3
Área de Antropología Física, Departamento de Ciencias de la Vida, Universidad de Alcalá, Madrid, Spain; Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Madrid, Spain.
4
Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Madrid, Spain; Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University (SUNY), Binghamton, New York, United States of America; Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York, United States of America.
5
Departamento Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencia y Tecnología, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Bilbao, Spain; IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain; Équipe de Paléontologie Humaine, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Musée de l'Homme, Paris, France; Centro Mixto UCM-ISCIII de Evolución y Comportamiento Humanos, Madrid, Spain.
6
Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana, Burgos, Spain.
7
Àrea de Prehistòria, Departamento d'Història i Història de l'Art, Universidad Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain; Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, Tarragona, Spain; Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of Beijing, Beijing, China.

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.

PMID:
26018668
PMCID:
PMC4446311
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0126589
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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