Who killed the Neanderthals? It’s been a long-standing debate in the anthropological world.‚  A mystery that none can solve.

The disappearance of Neanderthals is odd. A whole species, Homo neanderthalensis, living in modern day Asia and Europe for nearly 200,000 years disappears thousands of years after modern humans, Homo sapiens, evolve.

Many theories have been formulated over the years, some outrageous, some founded in environmental and evolutionary fact. Some say extreme climate change knocked out the Neanderthals’ main food supply: bison and large deer. The Neanderthals, who hunted using very primitive spears, could not catch up with smaller game and thus died of hunger, or so the theory goes.

Another theory flatters modern humans, some believe the Neanderthals were not as smart as or as good at making tools as Homo sapiens and thus went extinct as they competed for land and food, according to Discover Magazine.

Many theories have been ventured, but one remains the most popular. It implies a brutal war and old-fashioned ethnic cleansing on the part of modern humans. Did we, Homo sapiens, slaughter the Neanderthals?

It seems like something we’d do. After all, humans have taken to killing indigenous populations that inhabit land they desire. Humans and Neanderthals were competing for land, food and, ultimately, survival and as the smarter species it is highly likely that we waged war against them and won.

A piece of evidence, discovered in modern day Iraq, suggests at least one case of prehistoric murder. A skeleton found with a deep slice below its ninth rib.

The skeleton, one of nine Neanderthal bodies discovered between 1953 and 1960 in a cave in Iraq, belonged to a 40- to 50-year-old Neanderthal named Shanidar 3.

Duke evolutionary anthropology associate professor Steven Churchill believes a Homo sapien launched a projectile weapon at the Neanderthal, causing the deep cut. “We think the best explanation for this injury is a projectile weapon, and given who had those and who didn’t, that implies at least one act of inter-species aggression” he said, according to Live Science.

A Neanderthal skull was found in France a while ago, suggesting another case of murder. Scalp injury caused by a sharp object hitting the head, an act quite possibly inflicted by a human.

“If the Shanidar 3 case is also a case of inter-specific violence and if Shandiar 3 overlaps in time with modern humans, we’re beginning to get a little bit of a pattern here,” said Churchill, according to Live Science.

Scientific analysis showed Shanidar 3 died as his wound was healing, suggesting the weapon pierced his lung or caused lethal internal bleeding. Without any medicine, Shanidar 3 is thought to have died within weeks of sustaining the injury.

Does this solve the debate? No. Is it a useful clue? Yes.

Would it make a badass movie? Hell yes. Hollywood, get to work.

About The Author

Sachin Seth is the Blast Magazine world news reporter. He writes the Terra blog. You can visit his website at http://sachinseth.com or follow him on twitter @sachinseth

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