Category Archives: CHILE

The 7,000-Year-Old Elongated Skull Mummies Of Chile

The 7,000-Year-Old Elongated Skull Mummies Of Chile

The Chinchorro culture existed on the coast of present-day northern Chile and southern Peru as much as 9,000 years ago, and interestingly they purposefully mummified their dead.

Mummification first arose about 7,000 years ago, making them 4,000 years older than the same practice carried out in Egypt.

The brain and other organs were removed on purpose, and replaced with vegetable matter. There is also evidence that the mummies were not immediately buried after death, but were carried on litters and proudly displayed for extended periods of time; a practice that the famous Inca also did.

The 7,000-Year-Old Elongated Skull Mummies Of Chile

They also practised mummification in all classes of their society, and often the elderly, children and even fetuses were given the most elaborate levels of preparation.

Most other cultures that did this practice reserved it solely for the elite.

What intrigued me even more than the fact that these ancient people performed mummification was that many of their skulls appeared to be elongated, as shown in these photos from the Iquique museum, located on the coast of Chile.

I have been studying the subject of cranial deformation, especially in Peru for many years.

Cranial deformation was a technique practised all over the world, and was most prevalent about 2000 years ago, mainly at the royal levels of society.

In Peru, the Paracas culture is perhaps the most famous, as well as the ancient people of Tiwanaku and the Inca.

Some early results show that many of the elongated skulls from Paracas had natural red hair.

The above skull from Iquique is strikingly similar to those found in Paracas, yet could be several thousand years older.

The only DNA analysis of elongated skulls to my knowledge is being carried out by me and Peruvian associates. Initial results from our US-based geneticist stated:

“Whatever the sample labelled 3A has come from – it had mtDNA with mutations unknown in any human, primate or animal known so far. The data are very sketchy though and a LOT of sequencing still needs to be done to recover the complete mtDNA sequence.

“But a few fragments I was able to sequence from this sample 3A indicate that if these mutations will hold we are dealing with a new human-like creature, very distant from Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

“I am not sure it will even fit into the known evolutionary tree. The question is if they were so different, they could not interbreed with humans. Breeding within their small population, they may have degenerated due to inbreeding.”

Palaeontologists Unearth 139 Million-Year-Old Pregnant Dinosaur Fossil in Chile

Palaeontologists Unearth 139 Million-Year-Old Pregnant Dinosaur Fossil in Chile

Archaeologists in Chile have unearthed the fossilized remains of a 13ft-long pregnant ichthyosaur from a melting glacier -marking the first time a complete ichthyosaur has been found in the country.

The 139-million-year-old fossil was carefully collected by helicopter following an expedition in March and April this year by the University of Magallanes (UMAG) in the Tyndall Glacier area of Chilean Patagonia.

Named ‘Fiona’ by scientists at the University of Manchester, the 139-million-year-old fossil died when she was pregnant and still had several embryos in her belly.

Ichthyosaurs were marine reptiles that lived in the age of dinosaurs, and Fiona is the only pregnant female of Valanginian-Hauterivian age – between 129 and 139 million years old from the Early Cretaceous period – to be excavated on the entire planet.

Dr. Dean Lomax, a palaeontologist working on the study, said: ‘The fact that these incredible ichthyosaurs are so well preserved in an extreme environment, revealed by a retreating glacier, is unlike anywhere else in the world.

The remains of the creature, which researchers from the University of Manchester have named Fiona, were unearthed from a melting glacier deep in Patagonia.

‘The considerable number of ichthyosaurs found in the area, including complete skeletons of adults, juveniles, and newborns provides a unique window into the past.’

Now, researchers are keen to find out what information they can gather from the incredibly rare find.

Fiona was first found in 2009 by Dr. Judith Pardo-Pérez, a Magellanic palaeontologist and UMAG researcher.

The team hopes to compare the ichthyosaurs found in the Tyndall Glacier with those previously found in Chilean Patagonia.

Collecting this specimen was not easy, as the glacier is within a 10-hour hike or horseback ride. The expedition lasted 31 days and was described by the researchers as an ‘almost titanic challenge.’

‘At four meters long, complete, and with embryos in gestation, the excavation will help to provide information on its species, on the palaeobiology of embryonic development, and on a disease that affected it during its lifetime,’ said Dr. Judith Pardo-Perez, who led the study.

Alongside Fiona, 23 other new specimens were discovered during the expedition, making the Tyndall Glacier the most abundant ichthyosaur graveyard in the world, according to the team.

Ichthyosaurs.

Alongside Fiona, 23 other new specimens were discovered during the expedition, making the Tyndall Glacier the most abundant ichthyosaur graveyard in the world, according to the team.

Fiona will now be prepared in the palaeontology laboratory of the Río Seco Natural History Museum in Punta Arenas, where it will be temporarily stored for later exhibition.

Evidence For Biggest Earthquake In Human History That Caused 66-Ft Tall Tsunamis Found In Chile

Evidence For Biggest Earthquake In Human History That Caused 66-Ft Tall Tsunamis Found In Chile

Archaeologists have found evidence of the largest known earthquake in human history — a terrifying magnitude-9.5 megaquake that caused a 5,000-mile-long (8,000 kilometres) tsunami and prompted human populations to abandon nearby coastlines for 1,000 years, a new study finds.

Evidence For Biggest Earthquake In Human History That Caused 66-Ft Tall Tsunamis Found In Chile
The earthquake sent waves as high as 66 feet and 5000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

The earthquake struck about 3,800 years ago in what is now northern Chile when a tectonic plate rupture lifted the region’s coastline. The subsequent tsunami was so powerful, that it created waves as high as 66 feet (20 meters) and travelled all the way to New Zealand, where it hurled car-size boulders hundreds of miles inland, the researchers found. 

Until now, the largest earthquake ever recorded was the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, which hit southern Chile with a magnitude between 9.4 and 9.6, killing up to 6,000 people and sending tsunamis barreling across the Pacific Ocean.

The rupture that caused the Valdivia earthquake was enormous, extending as far as 500 miles (800 km) in length. But, as scientists detail in research published April 6 in the journal Science Advances, the newly discovered ancient megaquake was even bigger, coming from a rupture roughly 620 miles (1,000 km) long.

“It had been thought that there could not be an event of that size in the north of the country simply because you could not get a long enough rupture,” study co-author James Goff, a geologist at the University of Southampton in England, said in a statement

Like the Valdivia earthquake, the ancient quake was a megathrust earthquake, the most powerful type of earthquake in the world. These earthquakes occur when one of Earth’s tectonic plates gets forced, or subducted, underneath another.

The two plates eventually get locked into place by friction, but the forces that caused the plates to collide continue to build. Eventually, so much strain gathers that the point of contact between the plates rips apart, creating a gigantic rupture and releasing energy in the form of devastating seismic waves. 

Evidence for the giant quake was found in marine and coastal items — such as littoral deposits (boulders, pebbles and sand native to coastal regions) and marine rocks, shells and sea life — that the researchers discovered displaced far inland in Chile’s the Atacama Desert. 

“We found evidence of marine sediments and a lot of beasties that would have been living quietly in the sea before being thrown inland,” Goff said in the statement. “And we found all these very high up and a long way inland, so it could not have been a storm that put them there.”

To get a better sense of what brought these deposits so far from the sea, the researchers used radiocarbon dating. This method involves measuring the quantities of carbon 14, a radioactive carbon isotope, found inside a material to determine its age.

As carbon 14 is everywhere on Earth, deposits easily absorb it while they form. The half-life of carbon 14, or the time it takes for half of it to radioactively decay, is 5,730 years, making it ideal for scientists who want to peer back into the last 50,000 years of history by checking how much-undecayed carbon 14 a material has.

After dating 17 deposits across seven separate dig sites over 370 miles (600 km) of Chile’s northern coast, the researchers found that the ages of the out-of-place coastal material suggested that it had been washed inland some 3,800 years ago. 

Further evidence also came in the form of ancient stone structures that the archaeologists excavated. These stone walls, built by humans, were found lying beneath the tsunami’s deposits, and some were lying backwards, pointing toward the sea, suggesting that they had been toppled by the strong currents of the tsunami’s backwash.

“The local population there were left with nothing,” Goff said. “Our archaeological work found that a huge social upheaval followed as communities moved inland beyond the reach of tsunamis. It was over 1,000 years before people returned to live at the coast again, which is an amazing length of time given that they relied on the sea for food.”

As this is the oldest known discovery in the Southern Hemisphere of an earthquake and tsunami devastating human lives, the researchers are excited to probe the region further. They think their research could better inform us of the potential dangers of future megathrust quakes.

“While this had a major impact on people in Chile, the South Pacific islands were uninhabited when they took a pummeling from the tsunami 3,800 years ago,” Goff said. “But they are all well-populated now, and many are popular tourist destinations. So when such an event occurs next time, the consequences could be catastrophic unless we learn from these findings.”

Drowned Stone Age fishermen were examined with a forensic method that could rewrite prehistory

Drowned Stone Age fishermen were examined with a forensic method that could rewrite prehistory

Human bones dating to the Stone Age found in what is now northern Chile are the remains of a fisherman who died by drowning, scientists have discovered.

Drowned Stone Age fishermen were examined with a forensic method that could rewrite prehistory
Archaeologists unearthed the skeleton in a coastal area near Chile’s Atacama Desert.

The man lived about 5,000 years ago, and he was around 35 to 45 years old when he died. Scientists found the skeleton in a mass burial in the coastal region of Copaca near the Atacama Desert, and the grave held four individuals: three adults (two males and one female) and one child. 

The man would have been about 5 feet, 3 inches (1.6 meters) tall when alive, and his remains showed signs of degenerative diseases and metabolic stress, researchers reported in the April 2022 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The bones revealed traces of osteoarthritis in his back and both elbows; the back of his skull had evidence of healed injuries from blunt trauma; his teeth and jaws were marred by tartar, periodontal disease and abscesses; and lesions in his eye sockets hinted at an iron deficiency caused by ingesting a parasite found in marine animals, according to the study. 

Other marks on the arm and leg bones where muscles were once attached told of repetitive activities related to fishing, such as rowing, harpooning and squatting to harvest shellfish. If the individual was a fisherman, perhaps he died by drowning, the researchers proposed.

When forensic teams examine modern skeletons that were found without any soft tissue attached, experts can confirm drowning as the cause of death by looking inside large bones for delicate microscopic algae, called diatoms, which live in watery habitats and soil.

When a person drowns, inhaled water can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body after the lungs rupture, even reaching the “closed system” of bone marrow through capillaries, the authors reported. Looking at diatom species in bone marrow can thereby reveal if the person ingested saltwater. However, this method had never been used to examine ancient bones.

Algae, sponge spines and parasitic eggs

For the new study, the scientists decided that the modern diatom test was too “chemically aggressive,” and in removing bone marrow from samples, it also destroyed small particles and organisms that weren’t diatoms. Such particles could be highly significant for analyzing Stone Age bones, according to the study.

The researchers, therefore, adopted “a less aggressive process” that eliminated residual bone marrow in their samples, while preserving a wider range of microscopic material absorbed by the marrow, which could then be detected by scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Their SEM scans revealed a microorganism jackpot. While there was no marine material clinging to the outside of the bones, the scans showed that the marrow contained plenty of tiny ocean fossils, including algae, parasitic eggs and broken sponge structures called spicules. This variety of marine life deep inside the man’s bones suggests that he died by drowning in saltwater. 

It’s possible that the cause of death was a natural disaster, as the geologic record in this coastal region of Chile preserves evidence of powerful tsunamis dating to around 5,000 years ago, the scientists reported. But with ample skeletal evidence that the person was a fisherman, the more likely explanation is that he died during a fishing accident, they said.

Damage to the skeleton — missing shoulder joints, cervical vertebrae that were replaced with shells and a broken ribcage — could have happened when waves pummeled the drowned man’s body and then washed it ashore, the researchers explained.

Interior analysis of the man’s bones revealed traces of microscopic sea life, such as parasite eggs and algae. This image shows a degraded unicellular green alga that lives in marine ecosystems.

As to why the man was buried in a mass grave, “what we can assess from similar contexts is that they probably belonged to the same family group,” said lead study author Pedro Andrade, an archaeologist and a professor of anthropology at the University of Concepción in Chile.

The individuals likely shared an ancestor but weren’t immediate family members, as the dates of the skeletons spanned about 100 years, Andrade told Live Science in an email. 

By expanding the range of the modern diatom test to include a broader selection of microscopic marine life in their search through the interior cavities of prehistoric bones, “we’ve cracked open a whole new way to do things,” study co-author James Goff, a visiting professor in the School of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. 

“This can help us understand much more about how tough it was living by the coast in prehistoric days — and how people there were affected by catastrophic events, just as we are today,” Goff said.

Applying this method across other archaeological sites in coastal areas with mass graves could offer game-changing insight into how ancient people survived — and often died — while living under potentially perilous conditions, Andrade told Live Science.

While there are many coastal mass burial sites worldwide that have been investigated by scientists, “the fundamental question of what caused so many deaths has not been addressed,” Goff added. 

A tsunami wiped out ancient communities in the Atacama Desert 3,800 years ago

A tsunami wiped out ancient communities in the Atacama Desert 3,800 years ago

A recent study of geological deposits and archaeological remains has identified a massive earthquake and tsunami that wiped out communities along the coastline of Chile’s the Atacama Desert around 3,800 years ago. Studying the ancient disaster—and people’s responses to it—could help with modern hazard planning along the seismically active coast.

A long-forgotten disaster

Broken walls and toppled stones reveal the calamity that struck Zapatero, an ancient community in what’s now northern Chile, about 4,000 years ago. The people who lived along the coast of the Atacama Desert 5,700 to 4,000 years ago built villages of small stone houses atop massive piles of shells (Zapatero’s shell-filled midden is two meters deep and spans six square kilometres). Usually, these houses stood adjacent to each other, opening onto inner patios. People buried their dead beneath the houses’ floors. The cement floors were made from algae ash, seawater, and shells—the same material that held the stone walls together.

But stones and mortar failed in the face of the ocean’s power. One house at Zapatero stands in ruins, with the stones from its walls toppled inland as if struck by a giant wave. Another lies with its stones scattered back toward the sea, in exactly the pattern you’d expect from “strong currents associated with tsunami backwash,” University of Chile archaeologist Diego Salazar and his colleagues say. In a third house, the floors are covered in a layer of washed-in sand laden with the remains of marine algae and echinoderm spines, mingled with chunks of rock, shells, and sediment ripped up from the ground.

A tsunami wiped out ancient communities in the Atacama Desert 3,800 years ago

Elsewhere on the Zapatero midden, Salazar and his colleagues found similar layers of sand and ripped-up ground left behind by an ancient tsunami, along with channels gouged out by the tsunami’s strong, sudden current. When the archaeologists radiocarbon-dated shells from these layers, they found that many of the shells were actually older than the ones in undisturbed layers underneath—evidence that something had churned up the ground and ripped these older shells from their resting places to deposit them on the surface.

The same story is written in ruins and sediment at other archaeological sites along a several-hundred-kilometre stretch of the Atacama coastline. In recent surveys, Salazar and his colleagues also found geological evidence of an earthquake and tsunami that struck the region: layers of sandy, shell-laden seafloor sediment lifted several meters above sea level by seismic upheaval. The researchers radiocarbon-dated shells in these uplifted chunks of ancient coastline, along with shells and charcoal in the layers just above and below the tsunami deposits, and narrowed the date of the ancient disaster to around 3,800 years ago, give or take a century or two.

Combined, the geological and archaeological evidence points to a natural disaster of epic proportions: a rupture along a 1,000-kilometer stretch of the fault system where the Nazca Plate is slowly sliding under the South American Plate. The estimated magnitude 9.5 megathrust earthquake would have shoved parts of the coastline upward and triggered a tsunami 19 to 20 meters high along a huge stretch of the Chilean coast (and all the way across the Pacific in New Zealand, where geologists have also found deposits from a tsunami of about the same age).

The combined earthquake and tsunami struck a devastating blow for ancient people who lived close to the Pacific Ocean with a hyperarid desert at their backs. Archaeological evidence reveals that people abandoned the coast for centuries after the disaster.

Abandoned villages and scattered camps

The Atacama Desert is a hard place to live. It’s the driest desert in the world outside Antarctica, with less than 1 millimetre of rain a year. But people have lived—and thrived—here for at least 12,000 years. In part, they’ve pulled it off by turning to the sea.

Just offshore, the Humboldt Current wells up with nutrient-rich water, fueling a rich, teeming coastal ecosystem that’s still one of the world’s most productive fisheries. Thanks to the long, slow tectonic collision between the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate, the region is also fraught with seismic hazards. But for millennia, people traded that sporadic, long-term risk for the riches of the ocean. They left behind archaeological evidence of their presence and their adaptations to life in this unique environment.

But in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami 3,800 years ago, people deserted the settlements of shell middens and stone houses that dotted the Atacama coast. The sea has always been vital to life in the Atacama, but it’s clear that, for centuries, no one wanted to live too close.

Above the layers of sand and debris from the waves, mixed with toppled walls, there’s little or no trace of human activity at sites like Zapatero. The only evidence speaks of very short visits: small hearths and a sparse scattering of artefacts lying atop flood debris and broken stone walls. When people had to return to the ruins of their ancestors, they clearly didn’t want to stay long.

Archaeologists can see the wariness in the abandoned buildings and short-lived camps at places like Zapatero, but they can also read it in larger-scale changes that span the whole north Chilean coast. In one 100-kilometer stretch near Taltal, an area of northern Chile rich in archaeological sites, a survey revealed a 65 per cent decrease in the number of settlements after around 3,800 years ago.

Northeast view of the Zapatero archaeological in the Taltal region of northern Chile.

That date marks not only the estimated arrival of the tsunami, but the boundary between two archaeologically distinct cultures, Archaic IV (5,700 to 4,000 years ago) and Archaic V. After that boundary, settlements are scarcer, and both homes and cemeteries tend to be farther inland and on higher ground. Close to shore, what settlements there are get smaller, with fewer artifacts left buried and scattered.

Ancient mine gets the shaft

Even very important resources, like the iron oxide mine at San Ramón, were abandoned.

“Iron oxide was used as a pigment for several reasons, including the realization of pictures on stones that can be found in several sites along this region of the coastal Atacama Desert,” University of Chile geologist Gabriel Easton, a co-author of the recent study, tells Ars. These pigments appear to have been important for local communities and were involved in their rites and ceremonies.

A 3 centimetre-wide vertical crack in the wall of the mine probably dates to the earthquake 3,800 years ago, and after that, work here seems to have stopped. “The San Ramón 15 archaeological site constitutes one of the most ancient [pieces of] evidence of mining activity in the Americas, exploited since 12,000 years ago, and abandoned after around 4,000 years ago, most possibly because of the effects caused by the earthquake in the region,” Easton tells Ars.

But this is still a seismically active zone, and the risk of a major earthquake or tsunami is real. That’s why Salazar and his colleagues say the 3,800-year-old disaster they’ve revealed is important not just to our understanding of the past but our plans for the future. Most of the hazard assessments for coastal northern Chile are based on historical data that goes back just a few centuries, but the fault system in the region runs on a much larger temporal scale. Data about ancient quakes and tsunamis like the one that reshaped society here 3,800 years ago could offer a longer-term perspective to hazard planners.

Unfortunately, the Indigenous people who still live in the Atacama, including the Changos (recently recognized by the Chilean government after years of effort) lost much of their history, traditional culture, and lore to the ravages of European conquest, epidemics, and centuries of marginalization. But learning how their ancestors responded and adapted could help all of us prepare to face the next disaster.

According to Salazar and his colleagues, the aftermath of the ancient Atacama disaster is a reminder that resilience doesn’t mean a “return to the pre-shock state” but rather “the capacity of human communities to absorb changes… allowing for their long-term adaptation.”

7,000-Year-Old Evidence of Geese Domestication Found in China

7,000-Year-Old Evidence of Geese Domestication Found in China

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in Japan and China has found evidence of goose domestication in China approximately 7,000 years ago.

Modern Chinese domestic geese (Anser cygnoides domesticus).

In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of goose bones found at Tianluoshan—a dig site in east China.

Over the past several years, scientists have debated the timeline of the domestication of birds—most have suggested that chickens, which are believed to have once been a type of junglefowl, were the first to be domesticated, though there is still much debate about when it first occurred.

Estimates have ranged from five to ten thousand years ago. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence of the domestication of wild geese, as far back as 7,000 years ago.

The team found goose bones at the Tianluoshan site and used radiocarbon dating to find out how old they are.

They have also studied the bones in other ways to learn more about their characteristics, such as the age of the birds at death.

The bones were found at what had once been a settlement of stone-age people who were both hunter/gatherers and farmers—they grew rice to supplement their foraging efforts.

The researchers found 232 goose bones at the site, four of which were from goslings ranging from 8 to 16 weeks old.

They suggest this shows the birds were hatched near the site because it is believed that wild geese did not live in that area at the time the birds were alive.

They also found evidence suggesting that the birds had been locally bred based on chemicals in their bones that likely came from a local water source. And all of the adults were approximately the same size, which indicates captive breeding.

7,000-Year-Old Evidence of Geese Domestication Found in China
Goose bones were found at Tianluoshan, China.

The researchers suggest that the evidence they found provides strong evidence for the domestication of geese in China nearly 7,000 years ago.

A finding that could mean that geese were the first birds to be domesticated.

New Study Suggests Fisherman Drowned Some 5,000 Years Ago

New Study Suggests Fisherman Drowned Some 5,000 Years Ago

A new study has confirmed saltwater drowning as the cause of death for a Neolithic man whose remains were found in a mass grave on the coast of Northern Chile. The method developed to solve the 5000-year-old cold case opens up new possibilities for assessing the remains of our prehistoric ancestors.

New Study Suggests Fisherman Drowned Some 5,000 Years Ago
The Neolithic fisherman in the burial site

The scientists believe it will help archaeologists understand more about past civilisations in coastal regions and the human stories behind the remains they discover.

Modern forensics can confirm drowning as the cause of death in recent victims by testing for diatoms inside the bones of the victims. Diatoms are a group of algae found in oceans, freshwater and soils. If they are found inside the bones of victims’ bodies, it is likely that they drowned.

This is because if they had died before entering the water, they would not have swallowed any saltwater. The test has never been successfully tried to determine drowning in saltwater on prehistoric human remains, until now.

In addition to the diatom test, the research team, led by the University of Southampton, carried out a wide-ranging microscopic analysis of bone marrow extracted from a man found in a 5000-year-old mass burial site.

This allowed them to search for a greater range of microscopic particles that could provide more insight into the cause of his death.

The results, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, found a variety of marine particles that suggested he drowned in saltwater. These particles included fossilised algae, parasite eggs and sediment, which would not have been detected by the standard diatom test.

Professor James Goff of the University of Southampton, who led the study said, “mass burials have often been necessary after natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods or large storms.

However, we know very little about whether prehistoric mass burial sites near coastlines could be the result of natural disasters or other causes such as war, famine and disease. This gave us our light bulb moment of developing an enhanced version of a modern forensic test to use on ancient bones.”

After scanning archaeological papers for records of mass burial sites near coastlines, Prof Goff and his team worked with Prof Pedro Andrade of the Universidad de Concepción in Chile.

Prof Andrade had previously studied an archaeological site known as Copaca 1, 30 kilometres south of Tocopilla on the Chilean coastline. The site area contains a grave with three well-preserved skeletons.

The individual they studied was a male hunter-gather aged between 35 and 45. The condition of his bones suggested he was a fisherman as there were signs of frequent harpooning, rowing and harvesting of shellfish.

This made him the ideal candidate to study for signs of drowning and for evidence of the event that led to his death.

Genevieve Cain, Prof Pedro Andrade and the fisherman

“By looking at what we found in his bone marrow, we know that he drowned in shallow saltwater,” Prof Goff continued. “We could see that the poor man swallowed sediment in his final moments and sediment does not tend to float around in sufficient concentrations in deeper waters.”

Based on their initial findings, the team believe that he died in a marine accident rather than in a major catastrophic event. This is partly because the bones of the others he was buried with did not contain marine particles so it is unlikely they all died by saltwater drowning.

The team advise they could shed more light on this by testing other human remains on the site and studying geological records for evidence of natural disasters in the area.

Most importantly, scientists believe this new technique can be used for ancient mass burial sites around the world to get a richer picture of the lives of people in coastal communities throughout history.

“In taking more time over the forensic technique and testing for a broader range of beasties inside the prehistoric bones, we’ve cracked open a whole new way to do things,” Prof Goff continued. “This can help us understand much more about how tough it was living by the coast in pre-historic days – and how people there were affected by catastrophic events, just as we are today.”

“There are many coastal mass burial sites around the world where excellent archaeological studies have been carried out but the fundamental question of what caused so many deaths have not been addressed. Now we can take this new technique out around the world and potentially re-write prehistory.”

Prof James Goff and the fisherman

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Grisly human remains of ancient farmers who worked in one of the world’s driest deserts have been examined as part of a new study. The battered skeletons were found in the Atacama Desert in modern-day Chile and date back 3,000 years.

Lethal wounds could be seen on some of the skulls

The brutal conditions of their dry workplace weren’t the only thing they had to deal with though.

The skeletons show how the farmers lived in a time of social tension that led to violence and murder.

The researchers write in their study: “The emergence of elites and social inequality fostered interpersonal and inter- and intra-group violence associated with the defence of resources, socio-economic investments, and other cultural concerns.

“This study evaluated violence among the first horticulturalists in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile during the Neolithic transition between 1000 BCE – 600 CE. Furthermore, it analyzed trauma caused by interpersonal violence using a sample of 194 individuals.”

The 194 skeletons investigated were all adult and came from ancient cemeteries in the desert’s Azapa Valley.

This was said to be one of the richest and most fertile valleys that the ancient farmers could have been based in.

The skeletons are creepily well preserved because of the dry conditions and some even have soft tissue and hair.

Around 21% of the skeletons also showed evidence of “interpersonal violence”.

This includes skull holes and fractures that would have caused extreme pain.

Around 10% likely died from lethal blows.

Weapons like maces, sticks and arrows could have caused the trauma.

The researchers write: “Some individuals exhibited severe high impact fractures of the cranium that caused massive destruction of the face and neurocranium, with craniofacial disjunction and outflow of brain mass.”

The fights could have been over land, water and resources.

The full study findings can be found in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The farmers could have been fighting over land and resources
194 skeletons were studied for the research

In other archaeology news, a ship that sank after it was hit by gigantic stone blocks following an earthquake 2,200 years ago has been found in Egypt.

A new analysis of the remains of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh has revealed he may have been brutally murdered on the battlefield.

And, human skeletons have been discovered on a 1717 pirate shipwreck just off the coast of Cape Cod in the US.