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3D Imaging of a Paleolithic Child’s Skull Shows Possible Violent Head Trauma

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 07 Aug 2014
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Image: 3D CT reconstruction of skull compound fracture and endocranial surface changes in a child born during the Paleolithic era (Photo courtesy of PLOS PNE).
Image: 3D CT reconstruction of skull compound fracture and endocranial surface changes in a child born during the Paleolithic era (Photo courtesy of PLOS PNE).
Imaging findings of a Paleolithic child who lived approximately 100,000 years ago was at first thought to have a skull lesion that resulted from a trauma that healed. The child, found at Qafzeh in lower Galilee, Israel, died at about 12-13 years old, but the situation surrounding the child’s death remains enigmatic. To better determine the injury, the study’s investigators reappraised the child’s impact wound using three-dimensional (3D) computed tomography (CT) imaging, which allows scientists to better to examine the inner bone lesions, to evaluate their impact on soft tissues, and to estimate brain size to reconstruct the events surrounding the skull trauma.

The scanning was performed by the Brillance iCT 256 system, developed by Philips Medical (Best, The Netherlands). The findings were published July 23, 2014, in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Dr. Hélène Coqueugniot and colleagues from Des Chercheurs de l'Institut des Sciences Moléculaires (CNRS)-Université de Bordeaux (France) and Ecole Pratique des hautes Etudes (EPHE; Paris, France).

The 3D reconstruction revealed that the child’s skull fracture appears to be compound, with a broken piece depressed in the skull, surrounded by linear fractures. The investigators suggested that this fracture type typically results from a blunt force trauma, frequently a consequence of interpersonal violence, but can also occur accidentally. The depressed fracture was most probably caused a moderate traumatic brain injury, possibly resulting in personality changes, trouble controlling movements, and difficulty in social communication.

The researchers concluded that the child represents the oldest existing documented human case of severe skull trauma 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 teenager’s chest, likely suggesting a deliberate ceremonial burial.

Dr. Coqueugniot added, “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.”

Related Links:

CNRS-Université de Bordeaux
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

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