CSI Pleistocene: Scientists Discover Earliest Evidence of Murder in Human History

Skull dated back 430,000 years gives clues to the coldest of cold cases.

ByABC News
May 28, 2015, 2:00 PM

— -- Scientists turned detectives have uncovered the earliest known evidence of a murder in human history, according to a new paper.

The researchers made the find while working at the Sima de Los Huesos, which translates to the "Pit of Bones," in the Atapuerca Mountains in Spain. The group found a skull with two fractures in similar shape and size indicating a violent death, according to the paper, published in the journal PLOS One.

The remains found in the pit date back approximately 430,000 years to the Middle Pleistocene era, researchers said.

The group used new technology, including a CT scan, to create a 3-D virtual model of the skull believed to be from a Neanderthal. Researchers speculated that since the pit held multiple individuals and was only accessible at that time through a small opening, the "pit of bones" might be where dead bodies were deposited.

The team found two fractures close together in similar size and shape that indicated a blunt-force trauma. Looking closely at the skull, they determined that it would be almost impossible for the person to be killed by accident, since they would have had to accidentally run into the same object twice.

“Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill,” the authors wrote in the study.

Nohemi Sala, lead author on the study, said that while researchers suspected a murder, they were not sure how the murder happened.

"We will never know what the weapon was," Sala told ABC News.

Importantly, the finding suggests that homicidal acts have been around for much of human history.