New Study Suggests Fisherman Drowned Some 5,000 Years Ago

Chile Neolithic FishermanSOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND—According to a statement released by the University of Southampton, researchers led by James Goff of the University of Southampton analyzed the bone marrow of a man whose remains were recovered from a 5,000-year-old mass grave on the coast of northern Chile. The man is estimated to have been between the ages of 35 and 45 at the time of his death. The condition of the bones indicates he was a fisherman who frequently rowed a boat, used a harpoon, and harvested shellfish. The study detected the presence of microscopic marine particles in his bones, including fossilized algae, parasite eggs, diatoms, and sediment. The presence of sediment, Goff explained, indicates that the man drowned in shallow seawater, since sediment is not usually found floating in deeper water. The cause of death is thought to have been accidental, since the bones of others recovered from the burial site did not contain marine particles. The new technique may help researchers identify victims of natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods, or large storms, Goff added. To read about a Neolithic bone fishhook unearthed in Norway, go to “Artifact.”


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