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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Neolithic man 'had violent history'
Neolithic remains
The study examined neolithic remains
Neolithic man, thought to be the world's first farmer, was not as peaceful as previously thought, new research has suggested.

A study of remains kept in UK museums found neolithic man ran a one-in-14 chance of getting a cracked skull.

Archaeologist Dr Rick Schulting from Queen's University, Belfast said 350 skulls dated between 4000 and 3200 BC from southern England were examined.

He said the study "challenged" the myth of neolithic man being peaceful.

Dr Schutling, who co-led the study, said that about 5% of the injuries were healed and some may have been from sporting contests used as a means of resolving disputes.

"Basically standing head-to-head, bashing each other until one falls down - that's a possibility, domestic violence, or it might reflect more serious conflict," he said.

Dr Rick Schutling
I don't think this makes this period particularly unpleasant or violent, but it makes it a bit more realistic perhaps
Dr Rick Schulting

He said that about 2% of the skulls showed no signs of healing, meaning that the person had died at the time, possibly murdered or a victim of warfare between groups.

"In a way this puts a more human face on them and it is more what we would expect," he said.

"I don't think this makes this period particularly unpleasant or violent, but it makes it a bit more realistic perhaps."

Most of the fatal blows were to the left side of the head, which would have made sense if two right-handed people were fighting.

The injuries were mainly caused by blunt objects, although some skulls appeared to have been hacked by stone axes.

There was also some evidence of ears being chopped off.

Dr Schulting presented the evidence at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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