A Stone Age skull found in a Spanish cave is the mark of a failed brain surgery and postmortem decapitation.
The skull, which may be that of an adult woman, dates from about 7 BC00 BC to 4550 BC. Archaeologists found the skull deep on the Iberian Peninsula within the DeBriella Cave, along with a second adult skull – probably from a man – and the remains of a young goat, they reported in the journal, August 13 one more.
The morbid and unusual discovery arouses the possibility that the study author Daniel Garcia-Rivero, an archaeologist at the University of Seville, Spain, was brought to the cave for some kind of religious ritual. One or both individuals may also fall victim to human sacrifice.
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Dehshila Cave is a group of caves in the Batik Mountains of Spain. Stone Age artifacts were found near the mouth of the cave in the 1970s, but new discoveries come from Room 4, one of the deepest caves in the system.
There, a 2017 excavation revealed burials with stone tools, pottery, and most skeletons of sheep or goats that were less than 10 days old after death. The cave also had a stone altar and an ash-rich circle, a remnant of a 7,000-year-old fire.
It is difficult to determine the sex of a person by the skull alone, but the shape and size of the skull suggested that one may be female and the other male. Both were adults, but it was not possible to indicate their age properly.
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Possibly — at the top left of the female skull, archaeologists found something strange: a depression or aliquot, about 0.7 inches (19 millimeters) laterally showing signs of bone growth and healing. The split left no cracks, leading the researchers to conclude that the woman was said to be the subject of Stone Age brain surgery trepanation. Trepanation was the practice of drilling or scraping a hole through the skull in the brain; Hundreds of Stone Age skulls with fifty-three holes have been found among them. Modern surgeons sometimes remove parts of the skull after a brain injury to remove pressure from inflammation, and this is possible. Ancient surgeon There were similar reasons for Trepan. But he must have also undergone surgery because he believed it was released evil spirits.
Whatever the reason, the heat on the skull was incomplete; The hole did not go through the skull completely. The man likely survived for years after the procedure, researchers wrote, and the woman’s bizarre postmortem fate may have nothing to do with it. Cut marks on the skull suggest that his head was removed from his body shortly after death, while there was still flesh on the bones.
The scene in the cave suggests some form of ritual, perhaps even a sacrificial ritual, the researchers wrote. The ancient people presumably killed the goat for the ritual, but it is unclear whether they even sacrificed two humans. They may have died naturally, or one may have died naturally and another may have been a human sacrifice laid to rest with them. Or both would have been killed intentionally.
“This discovery opens up new lines of research and anthropological scenarios,” Garcia-Rivero Said in a statement. In these scenarios, human and animal sacrifices may be part of the rituals of one’s ancestors or cults dedicated to the festivals of commemoration, he said.
Very little is known about the burial practices of the Middle Neolithic, when these skulls were placed in the cave. Garcia-Rivero said the new discovery is an opportunity to compare people from the southern Iberian Stone Age with their former.
“This discovery is of great importance not only because of its particularity, but also because it constitutes a sealed, monolithic ritual deposit, a brilliant way to gain more detailed insight into the final and ritualistic behavior of the Iberian impractical population.” There is opportunity. Peninsula, “he said.
Originally published on Live Science.