4000-year-old skeleton points to murder

December 21st, 2007 - 4:08 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, December 21 (ANI): Scientists have unearthed evidence of a 4000-year-old murder by studying a burnt skeleton found beneath a bus shelter in northern Sydney.

Peter Veth, an archaeologist with the National Centre of Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, said that the victim might have been a tall, well-built man in his mid-30s at the time of his death.

He said that the victim was attacked by spear-wielding attackers, who then set his body alight and left it unburied on the crest of a sand dune.

“This is the first example of death by spearing from Australia. The find is highly significant for Australian and global archaeology, as it reflects on social practice and customary law,” news.com.au quoted him as saying.

The skeleton was excavated while Energy Australia staff was installing gas mains in the beachside suburb of Narrabeen.

Since the find appeared very unusual, the company brought it to the notice of Canberra-based archaeologist and historical consultant Josephine McDonald.

With Australian and US archaeologists and geological experts and the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Dr. McDonald discovered 17 stone artefacts, or microliths, around or embedded in the limbs and back of the skeleton.

“The presence of microliths and the evidence for trauma in the bones showed he had been killed with stone-tipped spears,” the experts reported in the journal Antiquity.

Professor Veth said that the association of the skeletal remains and the microliths, known as backed points, confirmed that ritual punishment was exacted long before the first Europeans documented the use of “death spears” for such acts.

He said that the find solved the long-running question of how the points had been used.

“These tools are generally thought to date back from 1000 to as early as 8000 years ago. But … their exact function has been very difficult to pin down until now,” he said.

Dr McDonald said the new discovery showed that unique finds could be made in cities.

“It also shows how archaeological research can provide Aboriginal communities with the types of information they want to know about their ancestors,” she said. (ANI)

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