The Broken Hill Skull or Kabwe 1: a prehistoric enigma

What would happen if the first fossil to be discovered in Africa with characteristics of Homo sapiens had a small circular hole that forensic scientists trace back to the action of a very high speed bullet?
The Broken Hill skull (also called Kabwe 1) is a mystery of the past.

The Broken Hill Skull or Kabwe 1_Lateral_cranial_comparison_of_Homo_naledi_crania_to_crania_of_other_hominin_species

The skull was found in 1921 by a Swiss miner, Tom Zwiglaar, in an iron and zinc mine in Broken Hill in the then Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).
In the place that is currently called Kabwe, in addition to the skull, the upper jaw of another individual, a sacrum, a tibia and two fragments of the femur were found.
Kabwe's skull was initially believed to be the first ever example of a new species of hominid called Homo rhodesiensis.
Subsequently it was assigned the classification of Homo heidelbergensis, although the most recent research has shown that some features show similarities with Homo erectus, Neanderthals and modern Homo sapiens.
It is not clear who the skull belonged to, but it is likely it is a cross between the different species of hominids but today it is also referred to as "Man from Broken Hill" or "Man from Kabwe" and the dating would place it between 300 and 125 thousand years ago.

Morphology of the skull

The skull, a hybrid between that of Homo sapiens and that of Homo neanderthalensis, belonged to a broad face with a large nose and massive superciliary arches, similar to H. neanderthalensis. The H. rhodesiensis would belong to the Homo heidelbergensis group and classifications such as archaic H. sapiens or H. sapiens rhodesiensis have been proposed.
The estimated cranial capacity is 1 300 cm³, consistent with the expected size for the assignment dating.
Tim D. White believes that Homo rhodesiensis is the ancestor of Homo sapiens idaltu, in turn the origin of Homo sapiens sapiens.

A hole that enters from the left and exits from the right.

To make this find so special are:

  • a small hole with a perfectly circular shape on the left side
  • the shattered parietal bone on the opposite side, as if something had penetrated with enough force to break it.

The Broken Hill Skull or Kabwe 1-right_parietal_bone

An article in The Shields Gazette excludes what might seem the most obvious hypothesis that the hole was the cause of a blow from a spear.
According to the investigations, in fact, a skull hit at low speed by an object such as an arrow or a spear should produce a series of micro-fractures that develop radially from the point of impact, called radial fractures or streaks, which in this case are totally absent.
it goes without saying that the "piercing body" must have had a much higher speed.

Theories and consequences

According to investigations by researcher Rene Noorbergen, the laceration present on the skull would add to those found in modern victims of head injuries caused by high-powered rifle shots.

Such a discovery would lead to three possible explanations:

  1. The skull is not as ancient as claimed.
    This hypothesis is to be discarded because the dating leaves no room for doubt.
  2. The skull is ancient but was hit in modern times.
    This assumption is wrong because the location of the finding is 60 meters deep and in a layer corresponding to thousands of years ago, which confirms that it may not have been accidentally shot in recent decades
  3. The skull was shot in ancient times with more advanced technology than we can imagine.
    But if this were plausible who is responsible for it? An ancient and highly evolved civilization? A time traveler? Alien hunters who hunted on Earth in the past?

Were our ancestors in possession of weapons similar to our rifles or pistols?

Ballistics experts argue that the hole is actually a wound inflicted by the canine of a large predator or, considering the customs of the time, or that it is a ritual puncture inflicted with a very sharp instrument, a practice often used to drive away the evil spirits, it is also pruned that the holes were caused by the splinters of a small meteorite.
According to Bad Archeology website, the lesions on the right side of the skull do not exist: the hole would have been caused by pathological agents or by a soft tissue infection and it would not be a traumatic injury.

However, it is impossible to ignore the discovery, thousands of kilometers away from the previous one, of another skull that continues to further deepen the mystery: along the Lena River in Russia, an ancient skull was discovered showing the same identical hole in the occipital region.
The skull belonged to an aurochs, an extinct species of bovine, ancestor of the buffalo, which lived between 2 million and 4,000 years ago.
Also in this case the hole does not have radial cracks that would derive from spears or arrows.
The find, kept at the Orlov Paleontological Museum in Moscow, reveals an even more surprising fact: the hole in question shows signs of calcification, which indicates that the aurochs survived the wound, thus invalidating the hypothesis that it was hit by a bullet in modern times.

The Broken Hill Skull or Kabwe 1: a prehistoric enigma-Skeleton_of_an_Aurochs

Kabwe 1 could be defined as an Out Of Place Artifact: in the circles of alternative archeology, the most widespread idea sees ancient man technologically much developed than is commonly believed but that the traces of this technological progress have dispersed over time until completely disappear.
Others support the paleocontact theory and the intervention of the ancient astronauts.

Until now, none of the above hypotheses are supported by adequate evidence and there is no certain answer to this prehistoric conundrum.
There is one fact to think about though: strangely, the presence of the highly unusual features of the hole are absent from the descriptions of Kabwe 1 on the Smithsonian's web page, as well as in the Natural History Museum in London, although their photos clearly describe the hole in the skull .. What is the reason for such confidentiality?


“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

―Arthur Conan Doyle


Resources related to The Broken Hill Skull or Kabwe 1: a prehistoric enigma


Cover image by Nachosan

Article image by John Hawks, Marina Elliott, Peter Schmid, Steven E. Churchill, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Eric M. Roberts, Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Heather M. Garvin, Scott A. Williams, Lucas K. Delezene, Elen M. Feuerriegel, Patrick Randolph-Quinney, Tracy L. Kivell, Myra F. Laird, Gaokgatlhe Tawane, Jeremy M. DeSilva, Shara E. Bailey, Juliet K. Brophy, Marc R. Meyer, Matthew M. Skinner, Matthew W. Tocheri, Caroline VanSickle, Christopher S. Walker, Timothy L. Campbell, Brian Kuhn, Ashley Kruger, Steven Tucker, Alia Gurtov, Nompumelelo Hlophe, Rick Hunter, Hannah Morris, Becca Peixotto, Maropeng Ramalepa, Dirk van Rooyen, Mathabela Tsikoane, Pedro Boshoff, Paul H.G.M. Dirks, Lee R. Berger

Article image2 by Emőke Dénes

Article image3 by Marie Thérèse Hébert & Jean Robert Thibault


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