What happened to the 100,000 year-old child? A 3-D image of this Paleolithic child’s skull reveals trauma and brain damage. 3-D imaging provides new insights to a middle Paleolithic age child’s skull trauma. Scientists wonder what happened to the child early in life? The child survived another 12 or 13 years. 3D imaging of a Paleolithic child’s skull reveals potentially violent head trauma that likely lead to brain damage, according to a study published online July 23, 2014 in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. You can check out the study online, “Earliest Cranio-Encephalic Trauma from the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic: 3D Reappraisal of the Qafzeh 11 Skull, Consequences of Pediatric Brain Damage on Individual Life Condition and Social Care.”
The authors, Hélène Coqueugniot and colleagues from CNRS – Université de Bordeaux and EPHE conclude that, the child represents the oldest documented human case of severe skull trauma available from south-western Asia. Furthermore, the child appears to have received special social attention after death, as the body positioning seems intentional with two deer antlers lying on the upper part of the adolescent’s chest, likely suggesting a deliberate ceremonial burial.
A Paleolithic child that lived ~100 thousand years ago found at Qafzeh in lower Galilee, Israel, was originally thought to have a skull lesion that resulted from a trauma that healed
The child died at about 12-13 years old, but the circumstances surround the child’s death remain mysterious. To better understand the injury, the authors of this study aimed to re-appraise the child’s impact wound using 3D imaging, which allows scientists to better to explore inner bone lesions, to evaluate their impact on soft tissues, and to estimate brain size to reconstruct the events surrounding the skull trauma.
3D reconstruction reveals that the child’s skull fracture appears to be compound, with a broken piece depressed in the skull, surrounded by linear fractures. The authors suggest that this fracture type generally results from a blunt force trauma, often a result of interpersonal violence, but can also occur accidentally. The depressed fracture likely caused a moderate traumatic brain injury, possibly resulting in personality changes, trouble controlling movements, and difficulty in social communication. Was it an act of human sacrifice thwarted, that healed, warring peoples, an earthquake or landslide, accident, or did someone get angry at the child and strike him or her?
Does the special burial show compassion in prehistory, or was it a thwarted act of human sacrifice?
Hélène Coqueugniot added, according to the July 23, 2014 news release, 3-D image of Paleolithic child’s skull reveals trauma, brain damage, “Digital imaging and 3D reconstruction evidenced the oldest traumatic brain injury in a Paleolithic child. Post-traumatic neuropsychological disorders could have impaired social life of this individual who was buried, when teenager, with a special ritual raising the question of compassion in prehistory.” The question arises as to at what age did the child suffer the injury, which healed, to then survive to adolescence? And how was the child treated in life, having received a special burial with perhaps prized animal antlers?
Authors of the study are Coqueugniot H, Dutour O, Arensburg B, Duday H, Vandermeersch B, et al. (2014). This research has been financially supported by the Irene Levi Sala Care Archaeological Foundation. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. On another note, news of another study points to flint as dominating the Paleolithic economy, “The economic territory of Upper Palaeolithic groups is specified by flint.”