Washington, July 21 (ANI): A new research has determined that the wound that ultimately killed a Neanderthal man between 50,000 and 75,000 years was most likely caused by a thrown spear, the kind modern humans used, thus indicating a possible case of interspecies homicide.
Analysis by Steven Churchill, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, indicates that the wound was from a thrown spear, and it appears that modern humans had a thrown-weapons technology and Neanderthals didn't.
"We think the best explanation for this injury is a projectile weapon, and given who had those and who didn't that implies at least one act of inter-species aggression," he said.
He and four other investigators used a specially calibrated crossbow, copies of ancient stone points and numerous animal carcasses to make their deductions.
While narrowing the range of possible causes for the Iraqi Neanderthal's wound, and raising the possibility of an encounter between humans and a now-extinct close cousin, the research does not definitively conclude who did it, or why.
The victim was one of nine Neanderthals discovered between 1953 and 1960 in a cave in northeastern Iraq's Zagros Mountains.
Now called "Shanidar 3," he was a 40- to 50-year-old male with signs of arthritis and a sharp, deep slice in his left ninth rib.
The wounded Neanderthal's rib had apparently started healing before he died.
Comparing the wound to medical records from the American Civil War, a time before modern antibiotics, suggested to the researchers that he died within weeks of the injury, perhaps due to associated lung damage from a stabbing or piercing wound.
While scientists have been unable to precisely date the remains, Shanidar 3 could have lived and died as recently as 50,000 years ago.
If so, he could have encountered modern humans who were just returning to the area then after a 30,000-year hiatus.
Archaeological evidence also suggests that by 50,000 years ago humans, but not their Neandertal cousins, had developed projectile hunting weapons, according to Churchill.
They used spear throwers; detachable handles that connected with darts and spears to effectively lengthen a hurler's arm and give the missiles a power boost.
Looking back at this Paleolithic cold case, the researchers evaluated all the possible causes of the rib wound with the aid of contemporary tools.
The injury is "consistent with a number of scenarios, including wounding from a long-range projectile (dart) weapon, knife stab, self-inflicted accidental injury and accidental stabbing by a hunting partner," the report said. (ANI)