A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oldest Headshot

A nearly 500-year-old skull sports the telltale signs of a gunshot wound from an antique firearm. The find, discovered recently in an Inca cemetery near Lima, Peru, was the victim of a Spanish musket, according to a detailed analysis. That makes the skeleton the oldest documented gunshot victim in the New World and possibly the first person in the Americas ever to have been killed with a firearm, experts say.

National Geographic grantee Guillermo Cock led the team that uncovered the remains. "We thought it was a person killed recently, 5, 10, or 20 years ago," Cock told National Geographic. "We didn't expect the individual would have been killed by a bullet 500 years ago."

The skeleton is one of 72 buried at the site under what must have been chaotic conditions, without the usual Inca reverence for death. experts say. The bodies were not facing the right direction, and they had been tied up or hastily wrapped in a simple cloth and buried at shallow depth, without the usual Inca adornment. Many of the skeletons were also victims of terrible violence, showing signs of being hacked, torn, or impaled. "We were not expecting to find as many traumatic injuries as we have so far," said bio-archaeologist Melissa Murphy of Bryn Mawr College.

Analysis of a plug of bone recovered intact near the skull showed the man was killed with a firearm much less forceful than modern weaponry, and the projectile's concave imprint is highly suggestive of a musket ball. In addition, detailed microscope examination of the skull and plug showed fragments of iron, a metal commonly used in Spanish ammunition.

"This gave us positive evidence that this individual died during conquest and was killed by gunfire," said Guillermo Cock, leader of the expedition that uncovered the mass Inca grave where the gunshot victim was found. "We have traces of iron on the edges of the bullet entrance and we have exit damage in the face caused by the bullet leaving the head."



Blogger Rorschach said...

SHHH! The Brady Bunch will try to say it was due to a lack of musket control or something!

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once read a good biography of Hernan Cortés that really marked me. What he and his little band of men managed to achieve militarly is incredible.

These were cruel but not pitiless men. They were Catholics and had fear of God. The horrors they found in Peru in the sacrifical temples and everyday life totally blew them away and they had little consideration for the local priest and noblesse after that.

Thousands of men would be sacrified at one sitting, their hearts ripped out while alive; then their skins were fashioned as clothing and masks.

The Spaniards--in very small numbers--were engaging thousand of men in battle and defeating them. They knew how to use their firearms effectively.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

The SO and I watched this on PBS the other night.

The bullet entered from behind and blew out the front of the guy's face. NASTY!

7:00 AM  

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