Scientists smash 'skulls' with ancient weapons in an attempt to solve stone age murders
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Scientists whacked replica skulls with axes and other tools to help solve the mystery of a series of stone age murders.
Researchers wanted to determine what ancient weapons had been used to carry out a massacre of 34 people in a cave in Germany 5,000 years ago as well as another murder in Spain around the same time period. I’m sure you’re interested in seeing exactly how the experiment looked - so click here:
To get to the bottom of the centuries old mystery, lead researcher Miguel Ángel Moreno-Ibáñez and his team created fake skulls out of polyurethane covered with rubber skin. They filled these hollow hoax heads with ballistic gelatine, which acted as brain matter.
And then, in the name of science, they started whacking the fake craniums with popular Neolithic ‘weapon-tools’ - an axe and adze - and noted the patterns each tool left after impact.
For those not in the know about ancient weapon tools, an adze is a bit like an axe except it features a blade perpendicular to the handle rather than parallel.
Moreno-Ibáñez struck each of the seven skulls from a different angle and at a different height to ensure a variety of fracture patterns.
In the study, the researchers wrote: “Using analogues to the human skeleton it is possible to replicate fractures found in the archaeological record and understand how they were produced.
“Although axes and adzes are very similar weapon-tools, there are a number of characteristics in the fracture patterns they cause that allow differentiation between the two.
Noting that, ‘fractures caused by an axe are characterised by a symmetrical oval or drop-shaped fracture outline, with the point of impact located approximately at the centre of the fracture’; while ‘fractures resulting from adze strikes, in almost all cases, feature one straight (point of impact) and one convex side’.
The team were specifically investigating the Talheim massacre, which left 34 battered skulls behind, and also the equally as beaten and battered skull of a victim found in a cave in Cova Foradada in Spain.
Although archeologists were clear that the victims had been beaten around the head, it was unclear what object was used.
But now, based on their experiments, the team concluded that the victims in question were most likely killed with an adze.
They also believe that, due to the Spanish victim seemingly being struck from behind, the slaying may have been an execution rather than the result of a fight.