Saturday, August 08, 2009

Did Spear-Throwing Humans Kill Neanderthals?

Neanderthal deathAnalysis of a Neanderthal skeleton known as Shanidar 3 found in the late 1950s shows that the he likely died from injuries incurred by a thrown spear, which scientists speculate was thrown by a modern human, according to a study published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

Although a nicked rib on his left side provided a hint as to what killed Shanidar 3, scientists remained stumped on the details for decades. To find a probable cause of death for the Neanderthal, the researchers used a specially-designed crossbow to fire stone-age projectiles at precise velocities at pig carcasses…. At kinetic energies consistent with a thrown spear, the pig’s rib bore damage consistent with Shanidar 3’s isolated rib puncture [Time]. Higher kinetic energies that matched a knife or spear thrust produced more massive rib damage than that sustained by Shanidar. The scientists also found that the weapon entered Shanidar’s body from about 45 degrees above his body, provided the 5-foot-6-inch Neanderthal was standing at the time.


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