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9,000-Year-Old Decapitated Skull Discovered in Brazil

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Earliest Case of Decapitation

 

LEIPZIG, GERMANY—Fragments of a human body including a jaw, the first six cervical vertebrae, and two severed hands that had been laid over the face of a skull in opposite directions have been unearthed at Lapa do Santo, a hunter-gatherer rock-shelter site in east-central Brazil. According to a press release from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, v-shaped cut marks were found on the jaw and the sixth cervical vertebra. André Strauss of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and his colleagues believe that the 9,000-year-old remains could represent the oldest case of decapitation in the Americas. Isotopic analysis of the bones and of other human remains at the site indicate that the individual had been a local member of the group, so the decapitation may have been part of a mortuary ritual, rather than a case of trophy-taking during war. To read about what might be the earliest known murder victim, go to "A Place to Hide the Bodies."

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