A centuries-old skeleton unearthed two years ago in an Australian national park is being called the first known victim of a boomerang attack.
Scientists who analyzed the bones ― identified as those of a young man who died violently in the 13th century ― say that the gruesome gash on the skull is consistent with a blow from a wooden-bladed “fighting boomerang” known as a wonna.
“When it’s used as a fighting club, it’s like a battle ax essentially,” Dr. Michael Westaway, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University and the lead author of a new paper describing the skeleton’s analysis, told The New York Times. “It would have been a very fearsome weapon. The blow to the front of the face was a rapid shock kind of blow.”
The skeleton was discovered in New South Wales’ Toorale National Park in 2014, when William “Badger” Bates, a member of the local aboriginal people known as the Barkindji, noticed the battered skull sticking out of the ground.
Bates and his wife dubbed the remains Kaakutja (”older brother” in the Barkindji language) and called in Westaway to help figure out when and how he had died.
“If it wasn’t for Badger, none of this would have happened,” Westaway told The Huffington Post in an email.
Initially, it seemed that Kaakutja had been slashed to death by a sword or cutlass at some point after Europeans had begun to arrive in Australia, National Geographic reported. But lab tests showed the man had died in the 1200s ― some 600 years before Europeans and their metal implements started spreading out across the continent.
The tests, which included CT scans and radiocarbon dating, also revealed the extremely brutal way in which Kaakutja lost his life. After being struck with the boomerang ― a vicious, bloody blow that would have taken out his right eye ― his ribs were broken and part of his arm hacked off.
There were no defensive wounds found on Kaakutja’s lower arms, leading researchers to believe that he had been the victim of a surprise attack.
But if Kaakutja came to a violent end, his burial was a proper affair. He was “carefully laid out” with his head on a cushion of sand, Westaway told NatGeo, adding, “He was obviously someone that a lot of people cared for.”
He’s still cared for: Following the analysis of his skeleton, Kaakutja was given a ceremonial reburial by the Barkindji community.