London: Researchers have unearthed a 9,000-year-old case of human decapitation in an archaeological site in Brazil.
The researchers believe this may be the oldest case of decapitation found in the New World, a name used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas.
The archaeological site of Lapa do Santo, located in east-central Brazil, contains evidence of human occupation dating back to around 12,000 years ago.
In 2007, researchers found fragments of a buried body, including a cranium, jaw, the first six cervical vertebrae, and two severed hands at the site.
The researchers found amputated hands laid over the face of the skull arranged opposite each other and observed v-shaped cut marks on the jaw and sixth cervical vertebra.
Andre Strauss from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany and colleagues have dated the remains, named Burial 26, back to approximately 9,000 years ago using accelerator mass spectrometry.
Based on strontium analysis comparing the Burial 26's isotopic signature to other specimens from Lapa do Santo, the researchers suggest Burial 26 was likely a local member of the group.
Additionally, the presentation of the remains, lead the researchers to think that this was likely a ritualised decapitation instead of trophy-taking.
If this is the case, these remains may demonstrate sophisticated mortuary rituals among hunter-gatherers in the Americas during this time period, researchers said.
The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.