Australian researchers solve 600-year-old murder mystery

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An Australian anthropologist has solved a murder mystery case involving a death of an Aboriginal man that occurred 600 years ago.

Australian researchers solve 600-year-old murder mystery
The position and placement of Kaakutja’s skeleton suggested he was buried with care 
[Credit: Michael Westaway]

Led by Researcher Michael Westaway, a senior fellow attached with the Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University, a team of scientists has discovered evidence suggesting that a skeleton found protruding from an Australian riverbank two years ago had belonged to an ancient ingenious man who died from a strike made by a boomerang.

News Corp reported on Monday that the scientists have meticulously pieced together the final, fatal moments of the man, using a state-of-the-art Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating laboratory which helped determine the man’s cause of death.

OSL dating laboratory can be used to determine the time since naturally occurring minerals, such as quartz and feldspar, were last exposed to light within the last few hundreds of thousands of years.

It is one of the main methods used to establish the timing of key events in archaeology and human evolution, landscape and climate change.

Australian researchers solve 600-year-old murder mystery
The trauma, shown going across the eye socket [Credit: Michael Westaway]

The skeleton was discovered in 2014 by an Aboriginal and was subsequently named as “Kaakutja” by the locals, which means “older brother” in the “Baakantji” tribal language.

It was initially believed that the skeleton had belonged to a man that had been killed by someone with the British Native Police, a group that was responsible for killing many Aboriginal people not long after Europeans arrived in Australia in the 1800s.

But further testing by researchers showed that the man died in the 1200s, well before Europeans arrived with their metal weapons, the university said.

“Analysis of the skeleton revealed a large cut to the face that had gashed the bone running from the brow to the chin that had not healed, suggesting it was part of the reason for the man’s death,” the university said.

Australian researchers solve 600-year-old murder mystery
Australian Aboriginal boomerangs [Credit: WikiCommons]

Griffith university researchers also found that two of the man’s ribs had been broken and that part of his arm had been cut off.

The researchers also noted the skull had two healed wounds, suggesting that the man had been involved in more than one violent encounter.

But it was the head bruise that the team found most intriguing because it looked like a wound typically caused by a metal weapon.

To better understand what may have caused the head wound, the university researchers also studied paintings that had been done on rocks in the vicinity, which had been dated to around the same time as the skeleton and noted that the paintings depicted people wielding “Lil-lis”, a type of knife-like wooden weapon, and boomerangs.

The findings are published in the journal Antiquity.

Source: Xinhua [September 26, 2016]

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