The skull that proves those New Stone Age farmers weren't so peaceful after all...
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Posted 10 March 2011 - 07:29 AM
A large number of New Stone Age men, women and children may have suffered serious violent attacks and died from their injuries, scientists believe. Human skulls buried in Orkney's famous Tomb of the Eagles displayed signs of serious wounds inflicted by weapons, according to ground-breaking research. Archaelogists who studied all 85 skulls from in and around the 5,000-year-old tomb said 16 contain ‘clear evidence’ of trauma.
The findings give the lie to the long-held belief that the people who lived in Scotland in the New Stone Age were peaceful farmers and that the human race did not turn murderous and warlike until later in pre-history. The skulls - both male and female, children and adults - showed injuries caused by one or more severe blows to the head inflicted by a weapon.
Some of these severe head wounds healed - leaving some people with painful head injuries.
But Orkney-based archaeologist David Lawrence, who led the investigation and revealed his preliminary findings, said it was likely that many died of their injuries. Mr Lawrence undertook the research in a collaborative project between the University of Bradford and Orkney Museum, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The results are to be peer-reviewed and formally published 'shortly'. Mr Lawrence said: ‘By checking if the wounds were healed or not, we can see if someone suffered from severe head trauma just around the time if their death. ‘To say with absolute certainty if they actually died from it, is very hard, but some attacks were so severe that the whole skull has split in two horizontally.
‘Other wounds are very subtle and are most easily observed inside the skull, where splinters have been bent inwards.
‘Some were caused by a blunt force, like a stone or a mace. Other cases were caused by pointed objects, like a bone headed arrow and there were also traumas caused by edged objects, like an axe. ‘Some wounds did heal. There is a skull of a woman that has three healed wounds which were caused by blows from a blunt object.
‘She also had a dislocated jaw which was badly healed. She must have suffered terribly, as it would have been very difficult for her to chew properly. It is likely she also had problems speaking.’
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