Notable: The cranial injury of Qafzeh 11

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Notable paper: Coqueugniot H, Dutour O, Arensburg B, Duday H, Vandermeersch B, Tillier, A-M. (2014) 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. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102822. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102822

Synopsis: Hélène Coqueugniot and colleagues look closely at a cranial wound on an early modern human skull from Israel, Qafzeh 11. They show that the injury had profound effects on the right frontal lobe of the brain, and argue that the individual suffered a delay in brain development and psychological or developmental disabilities as a result.

Important because: Qafzeh 11 was deliberately buried with red deer antlers apparently placed over the body. The individual seems to represent a child who was a victim of some horrific trauma, who had severe developmental issues, who was nonetheless integrated into a social group and treated with special care when she or he died. It is a window into the social behavior of Middle Paleolithic people.

But… Despite the fact that it’s an undeniably severe injury, we may not be able to infer that much about the life of this individual. His or her brain was small for age, but well within the range of developmentally normal adults today.