Scientists discover remains of first known victim of boomerang attack who died 700 years ago

Archaeologists left surprised by unexpected results of radiocarbon dating anaylsis of remains

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The Independent Online

Archaeologists have identified the skeleton of a warrior who lived more than seven centuries ago, believed to be one of the first people killed by a boomerang.

William Bates, a cultural advisor for a local aboriginal group in south Australia, discovered the remains during a walk in Toorale National Park in 2014, and quickly noticed a large gash stretching from the skull’s right eye to its jaw.

“As soon as I had seen him, I knew he was my ancestor,” said Mr. Bates upon finding the remains. “I just started to cry, and I said ‘I’ll help you, I promise to help you.’”

The skull was inspected by experts from the Griffith University in Queensland, who helped excavate the bones and analysed them using radiocarbon dating technology.

The victim was named Kaakutja by Mr Bates, meaning “big brother” in the local aboriginal language, and was estimated to have lived between 1260 and 1280AD.

He was believed to have died in his 20s and received a ritual burial up to a century after his death.

It became clear Kaakutja was killed using a traditional weapon during a conflict, likely to have been a Wonna or ‘fighting boomerang’ - a weapon which more closely resembled a small wooden axe than the current iteration of the boomerang.

Experts believe the victim was slashed across the face using the boomerang before his ribs were broken and his arm was hacked off, during a surprise attack. 

“This is the first time we’ve found evidence of someone possibly killed by a fighting boomerang,” Dr Michael Westaway of Griffith University told the New York Times.

“These hardwood weapons leave similar trauma patterns to steel weapons. That was unexpected.”

Claire Smith, an archaeological expert from Flinders University, added: “This research is important because it increases our ability to identify the types of wounds caused by the fighting tools of Aboriginal people in the past.”

Following the analysis, the bones of Kaakutja were returned to the care of Mr Bates, who performed a traditional burial ceremony to return the remains to rest.